Sermons Preached by the Rev. Raymond Shaheen, P.P.
Year: 1984 SERMON TITLE
/ji^Tsj:^'^'^ March 5
/^rrsSTA'C'March 1 1
"A Sermon On The Baptism
OfOur Blessed Lord"
"Favorite Texts Of Famous Persons:
"Favorite Texts Of Famous Persons:
"Favorite Texts Of Famous Persons:
"Favorite Texts Of Famous Persons:
"Favorite Texts Of Famous Persons:
"Favorite Texts Of Famous Persons:
Favorite Texts Of Famous Persons:
"Something To Remember"
Funeral Service for Hazel Mediary
"JESUS ON JESUS" - A Lenten Series
Who Are You Jesus?
"The Only Way"
"Jesus on Jesus: To Seek The Losf
"Through An Open Door"
pqX:Silf^<^ March 3 1
"The Funeral Meditation for
Dora Freas Richardson:
""Who Are You, Jesus: Bread of Life"
-^ 1984 Continued
/>?Z5^w<s- May 20
/tjX-S^t'^'^ June 24
'^ August 19
"Vine Covered Cottage By The Way"
Continuance Of The Famous
"Favorite Texts Of Famous Persons:
"When Is A Home Christian?"
"Favorite Texts Of Famous Persons:
"Favorite Texts Of Famous Persons:
"Favorite Texts Of Famous Persons:
"A Day To Remember" (Confirmation)
"The Set Of The Soul"
"Favorite Texts Of Famous Persons:
"Favorite Texts of Famous Persons:
"God Has No Number One"
"A Hard Lesson"
"About A Woman: Mary Magdalene"
"The God Who Is Never Less Than God"
"To Pray Aright"
"All Things - For Good?"
Acts 2:1-2 & 14
Jeremiah 3 1 :3
November 1 8
"With God's Love"
"Nothing But The Facts"
"Luther: A Man With The Book"
Festival of the Reformation held
By Lutheran Churches in the
'How To Live Meaningfully In The Meanwhile" Romans 13:11-12
'Put On The Lord Jesus"
'The Other Part Of The Christmas Story"
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen _
The Baptism of Our Lord ____J anuarv 8, 1984
"A SERMON O N THE BAPTISM
OF OUR BLESSED LORD"
GRACE, Mercy and Peace from God
our Father and from His Son Jesus
Christ, our Blessed Lord. Amen.
Hear now that passage of Scripture upon which this sermon is based, the title:
"A Sermon On The Baptism of Our Lord ....
"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan
to be baptized by John. John would have pre-
vented him, saying, I need to be baptized by
you, and do you come to me?
But Jesus answered him. Let it be so now,
for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all
And then he consented. And when Jesus was
baptized, he went up immediately from the
water; and behold, the heavens were opened and
he saw the Spirit of God descending like a
dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a vOice ^
from heaveii saying, This is my beloved son in
whom I am well pleased . • .
Preachers come under occasional ridicule. Sometimes it's fully justified.
Other times it is totally unfair, to say the least. Here's an example of ridicule
by some modern cynic: "The average preacher today spends far too much time answer-
ing questions that no one is asking." For shame upon the cynic, the cynic who never
bothers to concern himself as to the validity of the questions that aren't being
Perchance that could be the role of the 20th-century pulpit here, to provide
not only the correct answers, but also to see that the proper questions are being
raised, and brought to people's attention. At the risk of some measure of ridicule,
let me now attempt to answer a question which presumably very few, if any, of you
has ever raised Why did Jesus ever leave home?
It was a happy home. He was contented there. He was useful. He had a measure
of responsibility. It wasn't that He was an irresponsible person. Today's Scrip-
ture - - "Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan . . " - - that means He left
— are you aware of the fact that He had been home now
for some 30 years of His life?
"ON THE BAPTISM OF OUR BLESSED LORD" (2)
— are you aware of the fact that this is the first specific
reference in the Scriptures to the life of Jesus Christ from
the time that Luke referred to Him in the second chapter, as
a pre-teenager who went up to the temple with His parents,
and presumably He was lost, and they found Him.... "and he
went back home, and was subject to his parents. And Jesus
increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and
man . . " which is simply to suggest: He grew up !
And then after 18 years - - at 30 years of age - - He leaves home. You've never
asked the question: Why should anyone leave home?
Why did my father, of blessed memory, at 18 years of age leave the village
in the hills beyond once-beautiful Beirut, to come at the turn of the century to
America? ... I used to ask him that question. And he answered me; "There was
something going on over here . . "....and he wanted to be part of it.
Would you allow me to suggest that maybe that's why Jesus left Nazareth? —
maybe that's why He left home, because something great and wonderful was going on
beyond Nazareth, and He wanted to be part of it.
Do you know what it was that was going on? - - a cousin of his, a great prea-
cher, a revivalist, preaching up a storm — hellfire, brimstone, damnation - - they
hadn't heard anything like that for centuries, in fact for 400 years , according to
Scriptures, the voice of the prophet had been silenced. And now there comes this
strange character, John the Baptist, from the wilderness - - preaching with the
voice of a prophet.
People became scared, they came under conviction. He said, "You've got to
turn around, you've got to repent, you've got to be baptized!" And he was known
as the Baptizer, this preacher of hellfire, brimstone, and damnation.
Presumably Jesus had heard of this. He wanted to meet His cousin John. He
wanted to see first-hand for Himself what was going on, and undoubtedly to give
him a measure of comfort and encouragement. And that's no small thing! - to get
from where you are to where you ought to be, to speak the encouraging word to some-
body else, who's taking a stand that is Involved in the Movement of God - - ah!
there you have it! It was this Movement for God abroad throughout the land, and
Jesus wanted to be part of it.
"... and when he came to John ..." You can read this in the passage of
"ON THE BAPTISM OF OUR BLESSED LORD " (3)
Scripture for yourself and meditate upon it earnestly - - He offered Himself as
a candidate for baptism. And John, fully perceptive as he was, was taken by sur-
prise - - "You want me to baptize ^jrou! I should be baptized by j^ou! - for
your baptism is going to be far greater than my baptism of water."
Now ask yourself this question — you ought to ask questions:
~ Why shou ld Jes us want to be baptized, the sinless One ?
...that's what we say of Him, and we believe it. John's baptism was for sinners,
John's baptism was for people who said, "We're truly sorry for what we have done
and we're caught up in the wickedness of the world and we assume a measure of res-
ponsibility ... and we want to make it as a matter of record that we're ashamed
of ourselves and we want new life .... and as a measure of that new life we're
willing to be baptized and be submerged, even in the dirty water of the Jordan."
Now ask yourself the question: Why did Jesus want to be baptized? He was with-
out sin - - say it again and ever so often - - and the Church clings tenaciously to
that. Would you allow me to suggest this for an answer? - - why did He come from
Heaven above to earth at all? Why did He want to get soiled up with us? — a
rather unsavory lot, really! because He wanted to identify with us. Who
wants a Savior who is detached from the world? Who wants a God who can't come to
us where we are? And so He gives us to understand He wants to identify with us,
in our wickedness - - He becomes one-with-us.
Two things: He becomes one-with-us, sinners though we may be; and.
He becomes one-with-us in the noble thrust that's being let
loose in the world, this tremendous movement toward God,
there was a great revival, and He could not allow Himself
to be detached from it.
so Jesus leaves home, and becomes identified now with this great program, this
great movement, this thrust for God.
I think also, as I read between the lines, that all the while He was in Nazareth
He was no less God. You must never forget that: all the while He was in Nazareth He
was no less God
...He was God as He was making yoke for oxen...
...He was God as He was walking around ankle-deep in those
wood shavings in the carpenter shop in Nazareth, of course
He was ....
...He was no less God before He preached His first sermon....
...He was no less GOdbefore He was baptized
"ON THE BAPTISM OF OUR BLESSED LORD" (4)
But all during these years, this time of preparation. He was moving toward
that moment when the decision would be made in no uncertain way , as to who He
was and what He was meant to do. And I suggest to you, in the life of every single
leader who has been worth his salt, in the life of every single leader who has
made a significant contribution to world history, I think it can be said: there
has been that moment of awareness, that time of realization, as to Who I am, and
What I am meant to do - - to see also that time of identification is something
great and wonderful with something that's going on.
When I list the number of great ones whose shadow has been cast benignly upon
me, I think of that man that I met only briefly. He was a primate of the Church
of Norway during World War II. I met him when I first went to 3?ope in 1947, not
long after the war. We stood in the shadow of St. Lawrence Church, the first cath-
edral to be built in northern Europe. He was Bishop Evird Berggrav(?) Why do I
remember him? When the Nazis occupied Norway and they tried to get the Church of
Norway under their control, to kowtow to them, and they gave all kinds of threats
and intimidation. .. .and when they thought their ace card would be this, when they
said to the primate, they said to Bishop Evird Berggrav, "If you will not adhere
to what we ask of you, then we will imprison twelve of your bishops, and we ask
now that you give us the list of the twelve - - sign their names immediately."
...Berggrav took a piece of paper, wrote the names of eleven
bishops of the Church of Norway, and then he wrote the first
name at the head of the list - - it was the name of Evird ^JK
Berggrav. . . .
There does come a time when a person must take a stand, willingly to identify.
And when Jesus did that, when He was baptized, the heavens opened, a dove
descended, hovered over His head, a subjective spiritual experience. There's
reason to believe that nobody else was aware of it except Jesus. And while it was
happening, it became known to Him who He was , and what He was meant to do . And the
voice from heaven said, "You are mine! You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well
For anyone who has ever made his mark there has been that sublime moment of
vision. For anyone who has ever contributed significantly there has always been
that time when the vision has been followed by faithful obedience. Ask yourself
this question, for shame if you have never asked it! - - How could Jesus Christ
have persevered as He did, completely and perfectly as God's Son, even to the
cross and beyond? - - He never for a moment forgot who He was. And He never allowed
"ON THE BAPTISM OF OUR BLESSED LORD" (5)
Himself to go on without being sustained and strengthened by this conviction.
No sermon should be preached If it can't be helpful to the person in the pew.
No sermon should be preached if it can't be helpful to the man who Is preaching it.
So the question has to be asked: In my baptism, have I become fully aware of who I
am? Am I strengthened and sustained daily in the realization that I am a child of
God ? — meant to do God ' s work - - meant to be caught up In God ' s movement ?
I could become cjmical at my age, honestly I could. I preached a New Year's
Eve sermon not so long ago based on the text: Is there anything new under the sun?
At my age I could say fairly well, I've seen it all before! - - another year, just
another series of trials and tribulations, problems and perplexities, disillusion-
ment and despair, defeat and despondency - - I have seen it all before. Why am I
more in love with life than I've ever been before? My baptism becomes Increasingly
real to me - - exceedingly precious. Sure, I have feet of clay, sure I fumble and
falter, and even when I try to be best, I blunder. But I'm still God's child, I do
know Him! And I'd be less than grateful if I didn't thank you for reminding me, by
your hope and your trust.
John Oxenham once said, "Tb every man there openeth a way, and ways, and a way;
and the high soul gropes the low highway, and the low soul gropes the low, and in
between the rest drift to and fro. But to every man there openeth a highway and a
low, and each man decides the way his soul shall go."
....and the grand and glorious thing about deciding for the
high way is because God is always there ahead of you, saying,
"I have called you, I need you! "... and what is more precious
than anything else: "I will never leave you, I will never forsake you."
...this I most certainly believe.
* * * *
(This sermon transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Third Sunday After the Epiphan y January 22, 1984
"FAVORITE TEXTS: WILLIAM GLADSTONE"
GRACE, Mercy and Peace from God our
Father and from His Son Jesus Christ,
our Blessed Lord. Amen.
What would you do, if - - - ? Surely that question's been put to you on more
than one occasion as someone tried to find out how you would react in a particular
situation. What would you do, if . . .
- - if you were 30 years of age, and having reached 30, you dis-
covered that most of the people that you knew were already
married, and had their family started well on their way,
and you were not married?
...not only that, what would you do if you had already asked
two women to marry you, and you had been rejected twice?
Well, you could do what William E Gladstone did, you could ask the third woman.
In his case, she responded, and to all intents and purposes, it was one of the
most wonderful things that ever happened to him, because she proved herself a
worthy mate - - devout Cristian, a good mother for their eight children, and a
companion as he charted his course in the political arena.
What would you do, if . . .
- - having gone away to college, you return home nobly intentioned, and
you say to your family that you've made a decision, you want to
become a Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you want to
become a candidate for Holy Orders, to become a priest of the
Anglican Curch only to discover that your family, to a person,
are in total disagreement, and your father, whom you highly re-
gard, is about to dissuade you, and to dissuade you successfully.
What would you do, if . , .
- - you were William Ewart Gladstone, and you came home from Oxford, only to
discover that no one had any enthusiasm at all, but to the contrary,
they talked you out of your noble intention to become a priest of
"FAVORITE TEXTS: WILLIAM GLADSTONE" (2)
Well, perhaps you might not find yourself in either of these situations, but
William Gladstone did. Now how did he handle the second? He must have reasoned
within himself, and very properly so . . .
" I am a Christian, and I don't have to be a priest of the Church to
demonstrate my Christian conviction. If I don't become a Minister of
the Gospel, then I will apply the Gospel in my daily life" . . . and
he went into the political arena
He served Parliament for over 60 years. He was named Prime Minister on four dif-
ferent occasions. Historians have agreed that of all the people who served England
over a 200-year period, none excelled him in statesmanship, and none applied moral
and spiritual principles in their daily life to the degree that he did.
So what would you do, if, you were dissuaded from going into the ministry?
You would be convinced, as though you should be, that one doesn't have to be or-
dained, one doesn't have to wear the cloth, to serve one's Lord effectively and to
serve one's Lord well.
For shame upon us if we permit ourselves to believe that only the ordained and
the set -apart do the work of the Lord. It was one of the things with which Martin
Luther contended, and contended handsomely, in his day, when devout Roman Catholics
believed that unless you became a priest or a nun, you did not do the Lord's work.
And Martin Luther shook up a lot of people when he gave them to understand that even
the shoe repairman, the cobbler who takes a pair of shoes and does his work honestly
and well, performs a work as sacred in God's sight as the priest who stands with
folded hands in prayer before the altar.
In like manner. Archbishop William Temple in his day jolted people when pre-
sumably he was addressing a number of folks who were allowing them to think that
God placed a high value upon institutional religion, which undoubtedly He does, but
not at the expense of other things. And when Archbishop William Temple was dealing
with these people who were thinking that unless you did the Lord's work within the
institutional church you were doing something of lesser value. And how did he jolt
them? - - by that famous one-liner: "God has a lot of other things in which He's
interested beside religion."
...so Gladstone reajtoned, and reasoned well, "If I do
not become a priest, then I will live as a priest! - and
be faithful to my Lord in my day's work in the political
"FAVORITE TEXTS; WILLIAM GLADSTONE" (3)
We prize, here in Saint Luke Church, a number of things that are the work of
one man's hands. Much that you see in front of you by way of re-furbishing touches
that was done back in the 1960's, the late 60' s, the re-decoration of the chancel -
all of the work in the Chapel of The Grateful Heart — was done by the master-mind
of Ellwood Francis DeLong . . . . who in his impressionable years wanted very much to
be a preacher. And then he said to himself, "Maybe I can't preach with words, so
then I'll let my hands preach for me." One doesn't have to wear the cloth to do
the Lord's work.
As I walked out in the recessional at the 8:30 service this morning, in that
4th or 5th pew to the left sat two of our newest, youngest staff members in Saint
Luke, Alma Louise Hornung and Ginny Ann Smith. Neither wears the veil of the dea-
coness, neither has been set aside, ordained as a pastor of the Church — we have
more than 100 women now in the Lutheran Church in America who are serving as pas-
tors . . . neither one has been set apart as members of holy orders. And yet I
dare say to you, as I know something of the manner of and dedication and the nature
of their work, no deaconess perchance would serve with greater devotion, and no
pastor of the Church would go about her work with greater zeal than these two.
...and I think quickly of our Nan Sheets, a missionary in India,
going about her work with commitment , without benefit of holy orders. . .
This is the lesson we learn from William Gladstone as he lost himself completely
and gave himself earnestly to his Christian commitment in the world of politics.
Now the third question: What would you do, if - -
...you discovered that, for want Of a better term - - as a practicing
Christian, or as one who practices your Christian faith in your day's
work, you were not always appreciated, and sometimes your motives were
questioned? - - and your deeds and acts misinterpreted?
And what would you do, if - -
...your fortunes waxed and waned? - and all the time you were permitting
yourself to believe that you were doing the Lord's work?
What would you do, if - -
...you discovered, much to your dismay, that the Queen whom you served
loyally was no longer supportive? - and with great difficulty controlled
her emotions when you were in her presence, lest she give evidence of
her dislike and show her disfavor?
What would you do, if - -
...because of your Christian commitment, because you were completely dedi-
cated to doing the right thing in the sight of God, you were voted out of
"FAVORITE TEXTS: WILLIAM GLADSTONE" (4)
What would you do, if - -
...on occasion you discovered that you had to change your mind? — as he
did — once favoring the abolition of the income tax, and then while he
was still in office, coming back and saying, "This is an unwise thing to
do - - if we are going to win the Crimean War, then we've got to double
the taxation . . .
And what would you do, if - -
...only a little while later you came back to your people and you said,
"It's a mistake to wage this war any longer, and I encourage you to
withdraw our troops."
What would you do, if - -
...politically speaking, you find favor in the eyes of people when you
say, "We've got to be firm with the Russians" - - as he did in his day
with a dispute over the Aghanistan border. .. .only to discover that the
same electorate were taking you to task, because you were also saying,
"We've got to cut down on our defense spending." - - - it's almost as
current as yesterday, this morning, tomorrow.
What would you do, if - -
...you were trying earnestly to plot your course, and to apply your
Christian commitment in your day's work, and it wasn't always being
appreciated - - not even by the sovereign whom you wanted so much to
What would you do, if - -
...your own political party would turn against you and you found yourself
not being trusted and respected by any segment of political parties?
...one calls you a renegade, another distrusts you because you had a label
ten years earlier that you don't carry now? And all because, no matter
what the condition or circumstance would be, you were trying to apply
at that time in that instance what you believed to be the Christian thing
For sixty years he was a member of Parliament . . . four times Prime Minister. His
fortunes waxed and waned
What would you do, if - -
...as one in high office you were walking down the street - - not going to
church, not going to the House of Commons . . . but you passed by a women
of the street - - how would you apply your Christian commitment?
"FAVORITE TEXTS: WILLIAM GLADSTONE" (5)
It's one thing to mouth what you believe when you sometime sanctimoniously stand
in the presence of people. But when the harlot's in the gutter, how do you respond?
There was a marvelous consistency in that man's life. He and his wife agreed to-
gether that they would support a rescue home, a shelter for women of the streets.
And together they would go and visit these people and they would read Scripture to
them, and they would pray with them, and they would do everyghing they could to
persuade them to change their lives by the grace of God.
This sermon is another in the series of "Favorite Texts of Famous Persons" . . .
now the text that became a lodestar for this man's life. You need to understand,
and to understand it well, that his life was permeated by Scripture. In his dia-
ries he has recorded again and ever so often that at every significant point in
his life it was a passage from Scripture that sustained him and nourished him.
What do you suppose was the inscription hanging over his bed at Haywarden, where he
lived as often as he could? - -
" Keep me under the shadow of thy wings "
...what do you suppose was the text that he wrote when Lady Battersley, -vho
was a guest in his home, had an autograph book - -
— do you remember those days of autograph books?
there was something to be said for them. As a teen-
ager I had one . . I've lost it long since, for shame,
but I remember when as an impressionable teenager at
Camp Nawakwa, Dr. Michael Hadlon Fisher's mate, Mrs.
Fisher, wrote in my autograph book what I remember to
this day and I hope to my dying day: "To thine own
self be true, and it must follow as the night the day,
thou canst not then be false to any man."
...there's a great deal to be said for that time when we had autograph books,
when some people shared with some measure of inspiration to which we could return
again and again to fortify the soul....
...Lady Battersley said to Gladstone, "Won't you write in my book?" And
he did. And what do you suppose he wrote? — without any hesitation, immediately
he wrote in his own hand the 8th verse of the 17th Psalm:
"Keep me as the apple of thine eye; hide me under the
shadow of thy wings. "
It's not among the most popular of the Psalms. I have been living with it very
much for the last week. You will be shocked by it, your first reaction may be
"FAVORITE TEXTS: WILLIAM GLADSTONE " (6)
that It makes a mockery of midesty. To the man who wrote that Psalm, saying to God
"Listen to me, God, I'm a good man!" - - to all intents and purposes that's what
he's saying "I am a good man, I try to be good. In fact, God, I have been so
good that if you were to search me, even in the darkness when nobody is around,
and when I'm inclined to think thoughts that may not be right - - go ahead, God,
try me, and you will be pleased with what you discover!" . . . imagine a person be-
ing so intent on doing the right thing that he is permitting himself to believe that
day in and day out he would not waver from his convictions. Gladstone was the kind
of person who allowed himself to believe that if he was inclined to do a single thing
that would not be pleasing in God's sight, he'd have done with it at once. Can you
imagine someone with that integrity? Well, you get that kind of integrity only when
you want to be that kind of person. And only when you were fully aware of the fact
that Gd has His sheltering wing over you, protecting you:
"Keep me as the apple of thine eye"
is a fascinating expression. What is the apple of your eye?
The apple of one's eye is that part of the eye in which the reflection of the
other person is kept. It's also referred to as the pupil of the eye, when you look
through the pupil you can look straight through to the optic nerve into the brain,
as though you are going into the innermost part of the other person and your re-
flection, your image, becomes part of that person. So this man William Gladstone,
wanted to be kept inside God — that close to God! He wanted to identify with God
that earnestly, so completely. Doesn't that mean anything to you? Don't you get
a measure of encouragement from the fact that there has been a person who once lived,
and not a preacher at that! - - who gave himself so earnestly to trying to practice
what he preached, and to behave according to what he believed. Every now and then
God raises up someone like that, to become our encouragement. It is possible. It
He was ten years of age when Queen Victoria was born. A half -century later he
became Prime Minister, the greatest honor that can fall to the lot of any English-
man. But remember Gladstone for more than this, much more. Think of him as the
fortunate one of whom his mother could write, to tell to a friend of hers with un-
speakable thankfulness, that her boy had been truly converted to God - - a boy,
mark you, ten years of age....
....now if you think that's impressive, listen to this: in his monumental
"Life of Gladstone," his biographer. Lord Morley, wrote as he gives us "a sentence
from the diaries that Gladstone kept." It was written when he was barely twenty-
one years of age . . .
"FAVORITE TEXTS; WILLIAM GLADSTONE" (7)
"... in practice the great thing Is that the life of
God may become the habit of my soul ... "
And if you think that a marvelous thing, here's something even more grand: he lived
for nearly 70 years after that, and remained faithful, unswerving, to that youthful
The Bishop of St. drew's was his confidante and was with him as he was nearing
death. The shop kept his own diary, and he said as he walked away, "It's as though
I had been on the Mount of Transfiguration and had been ushered into the very pres-
ence of God . . " - - writing not about a preacher, but a politician. . .a statesman..
...a Prime Minister - - whose earnest desire was that he might be kept as the apple
of God's eye and sheltered under His wing.
It was a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who said of Gladstone,
"He wasn't a clergyman. I am.
He was as fit for the cloth as I am unfit."
He didn't always succeed. But he was faithful.
We don't have to succeed. Bt we are judged by our faithfulness.
This I most certainly believe.
(This sermon transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Fourth Sunday After Epiphan y January 29, 1984
"FAVORITE TEXTS OF FAMOUS PERSONS:
" JOSEPHINE BUTLER" (Luke 7:37)
If you will permit, a very personal word at this moment.
My gratitude is very great for the warmth of the words spoken by the person
during the announcement period. He knows my heart as does none other pastor.
My gratitude is very great for all those who stood here before me, inter-
preting God's precious truth. I was privileged to know two of my three predeces-
sors. One of them, the first pastor, was a year or two ahead of me in theological
seminary, and my immediate predecessor was a year behind me.
I'm also grateful for those who taught me to love the Good Book, for those
who taught me in Sunday School. I'm grateful for the pastor that I had in my life —
I had only one. He baptized me, he confirmed me, he stood with me when I was
named as a Minister of Wotd'-'atid "Sacrament of the Lutheran Church. My heart is
And you should know that in my personal devotions this morning, both at home
and at a very early hour in the Chapel of The Gateful Heart, I thanked God for hav-
ing made me a minister, and I thanked Him for the privilege He gave me to serve in
Pennsylvania and then to serve here. And I hope you won't mind, in my prayer to
God, as I thanked Him I also asked Him if I could stay on a little bit longer.
And now the text, the 37th verse of the 7th chapter of the Gospel according to
"And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner ..."
No matter how you may wish or not wish to say it, usually, if not invariably,
it comes out the same way - - there are two kinds of people — good, and bad.
there are two kinds of men - - good, and bad....
there are two kinds of women - - good, and bad
Now this morning I want to talk with you about women — both kinds of women — good,
and bad, and to talk with you about them from the Christian perspective.
First, I want to talk to you about a bad one. You may relax a bit, I shan't
be specific, as you may at first blush be inclined to think that I will. I shall
paint in broad lines - - you can handle the details as you deem necessary.
"FAVORITE TEXTS: JOSEPHINE BUTLER " (2)
How about this bad woman where did I learn about her? What can I tell
you about her? Where is she written up?
Well, she's written up in the Bible. We don't know too much about her, for-
tunately, and I say fortunately because one ought never to concern himself with
the sordid details of the evil that has made people bad. It's enough that we should
know that they're bad.
I don't know where she practiced the world's oldest profession,
and I don't know all of the details. I don't know how she got trapped.
I don't know whether she enjoyed it, or whether she detested it. I
don't know what most people thought about her 1 know she was branded,
I know she was a woman with a reputation she was a bad woman, written
up in the Bible.
The Scripture account of her makes it quite obvious. Everyone, m.ost any-
one, that is, would have recognized her for what she was - either her
looks, her speech, her manner of dress, or lack of it betrayed her.
Her reputation had preceded her. To top it all off, she was a party-
crasher. That, too, must be said about her. According to the Scriptural
account, she wasn't on the guest list, but she showed up just the same.
Now, let me narrate for you that Bible passage - I'll read it for you eventually,
but let me give you the picture: Jesus was invited as a dinner guest. Now, it's im-
portant that you should know that on this occasion He was invited. Sometimes He in-
vited Himself. You'll remember readily that incident in Jericho when He looked up
and saw a man up a tree, and He said, "Zacchaeus, you come on down because Vm going
to your house and I'm going to have supper with you." and off they went. But
this time Jesus was invited.
He was invited by a man of some reputation, I suppose, so much so that we even
know his name, it was Simon. Now why he invited Him I can't tell you exactly. It
may have been because he had a habit of asking people to dinner who were recognized
in the community with some standing, and Jesus had that. He was a traveling guru.
He was a teacher, He was a prophet. And Simon perhaps knew a measure of satisfaction
in being able to add Him to his guest list - - "Why, there was that man from Nazareth,
well-known prophet, when he came to my town I had him for dinner " Or he may have
been tremendously interested in Jesus and what He had to say. Maybe he wanted to learn
first-hand as they sat at conversation. I'm not really certain, nor, I dare say, can
you be certain. At any rate, Simon had Him for dinner.
"FAVORITE TEXTS; JOSEPHINE BUTLER " (3)
Now, you ought to know the kind of setting in which they found themselves - -
vastly different from the kind of meal you're going to have today, and the environ-
ment in which you'll find yourself.
For those of us who have had the good fortune to travel in the Mid-East or even
in India — sometimes you will find in India semblances of Bible life today which was
much like Bible life in the time of Jesus. There are two strata in society — the
very rich and the very poor - - the distinguished and the disadvantaged.
Now, you can suppose that in Simon's case he was fortunate enough to have a
house. And if you were fortunate to have a house, you probably had a court-yard, and
in the area directly in front of the house was this open space where, in all likeli-
hood, there was a garden of sorts and also a fountain. And when the weather was con-
ducive, people ate in the outside area - which was available to people walking down
the street — the have-nots — to find themselves naturally gravitating toward those
who were having a meal. People who had sometimes knew a measure of satisfaction in
vaunting in front of people that they had - what they didn'^t have. And they didn't
much mind when they came in and ate, as the Scriptures have it, "the crumbs that fell
from the master's table."
And also, very easily, when people were walking by, if they saw who the guest
was, and they recognized him as a distinguished teacher, they'd just walk in, and
stand around, while others ate.... and they'd listen, because that's how they became
enlightened, that's how they learned. They didn't have the media that you and I
have today - - no newspaper, no radio, no television. And so it was an interesting
thing for them to be able to catch up some pearls of wisdom from this teacher who
came to their town. Now can you understand how it's the easiest thing in the world
for this woman, this bad woman, this woman from the streets, to find herself as a
party-crasher, so to speak.
Now when she got there, she immediately went to Jesus Christ and behaved in a
very unlikely manner. She lost control of her emotions. At the very sight of Jesus
she began to cry and to shed copiously her tears, so much so that the Bible said,
"She wet the feet of Jesus with her tears" and then she allowed the long tresses
of her hair to become like a napkin or an apron, and she began to dry the feet of
Now let me pause at this moment to tell you that if you were a guest in an Ori-
ental home, there were three things that ought to take place, according to the book
of etiquette in that day. One, you would be received by the host, who would greet
"FAVORITE TEXTS; JOSEPHINE BUTLER" (4)
you warmly, place his hand upon your shoulder, and give you the kiss of peace. I
stem from Mid-East stock, as some of you may know, and I can remember how this kind
of thing would happen in my home when my father would greet a guest....
...the second thing, your sandals would be removed, either by the host or by
his servant, and then water would be poured upon one's feet, to cleanse them from
the grime, the dust and the dirt of the dusty road that you took to get to the
place. .. .there were no paved streets, as you know
...and the third thing, a part of custom when you were a guest in the home,
they sprinkled some sweet-smelling something — perfume, attar of roses, you name
it — on the head or the forehead of the guest. All of those things would take
You've got to remember that now because of the way this woman from the streets
behaved in an unseemly manner. gn she saw Jesus she began to cry. e washed His
feet, not with water, but with tears, and she had around her neck a vial of perfume
...it's not too much to suggest that maybe one of her better
customers gave it to her. She ripped it loose, poured the
contents upon the feet of Jesus, which she had kissed
...and all the while this was happening, poor old Simon-the-host was squirming, he
couldn't quite make out what was going on, he couldn't believe what he was seeing.
And Scripture has it that he said to himself, "Why, this man, he isn't as smart as
I thought he was, maybe he isn't a prophet. His kind ought to know what kind she
is! And if he did, he'd control the situation. He wouldn't let it go on!"
And Jesus, sensing all of this, of course, takes Simon-his-host to task.
Well, now that I've told you about it, let me read it for you from Scripture
the way it appears. I prize, of course, the Bible that I read it as a youngster,
the King James , but J. B. Phillips translation is a bit more real. Let me read it
for you according to Phillips. Remember now, it's the 7th chapter of Luke, verses
37 to 50
"Then one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to a meal with him.
When Jesus came into the house, he took his place at the table
and a woman, known in the town as a bad woman, found out that
Jesus was there and brought an alabaster flask of perfume and
stood behind him crying, letting her tears fall on his feet and
then drying them with her hair. Then she kissed them and anointed
them with the pe rfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw
this, he said to himself, 'If this man were really a prophet, he
wou 1 d know who this woman is and what sort of a person is touching
him. He would have realised that she is a bad woman.' Then Jesus
spoke to him,
'Simon,~there is something I want to say to you.'
'Very well. Master,' he returned, 'say it.'
"FAVORITE TEXTS; JOSEPHINE BUTLER" (5)
' Once upon a time, there were two men In debt to the same money-lender .
One owed him fifty pounds and the other five And since they were unable
to pay, he generously cancelled both of their debts. Now, which one of
them do you suppose will love him more?*
'Well,' returned Simon, 'I suppose it will be the one who has been
more generously treated. '
'Exactly,' replied Jesus, and then turning to the woman, he said to
'You can see this woman? I came into your house but you provided no
water to wash my feet. But she has washed my feet with her tears and dried
them with her hair. There was no warmth in your greeting, but she, from the
moment I came in, has not stopped covering my feet with kisses. You gave
me no oil for my head, but she has put perfume on my feet. That is why I
tell you, Simon, that her sins, many as they are, are forgiven; for she has
shown me so much love. But the man who has little to be forgiven has only
a little love to give. '
Then he said to her,
'Your sins are forgiven.'
And the men at table with him began to say to themselves,
'And who is this man, who even forgives sins? '
But Jesus said to the woman,
'It is your faith that has saved you. Go in peace. ' . . . "
I told you I wanted to talk about women, and two kinds of women. That's the bad one,
written up in the Bible.
Now before I talk about the good woman in this sermon, we need to deal with
this: How was it that she came to do this kind of thing for Jesus? A good question.
I'm willing to suggest to you that she hearld about Jesus before. I'm willing to
suggest to you that she had seen Jesus before. Where and how I don't know, any more
than you do. But I don't think this thing happened just like that. Some time prior
to this there had been an encount er . . . . and I'm willing to believe with all my soul ,
that when Jesus looked at her, and when He spoke to her, something happened in her
life. Hear me and hear me well, let some people speak to me, and it draws out the
better side of my nature. .. .and then there are some people, when they speak to me,
it draws out the worst side of my nature. People can have that effect upon us....
Jesus had this kind of effect upon her - - He brought out the better side of her
Others had spoken to her, others had looked on her, and brought out the worst
side of her nature. Once she had been encountered by Jesus Christ, she could never
again be satisfied with the kind of life she was living. Some of us can attest to
the very same truth - - we have encountered people who have made a difference in
our lives, who have constantly brought out the better part of us.
What kind of effect do you have on people? Good question, honestly. Still as
"FAVORITE TEXTS; JOSEPHINE BUTLER" (6)
of old, you and I become according to the way either people love us, or refuse to
At 8:30 this morning, that precious band of high school youngsters who sang in
the choir began their anthem something like this: "What kind of a man are you,
Jesus?" this is the kind of person He was, who looked for that, as our Quaker
friends say, who look for that which is of God in every person.
I have told you this before, and in all likelihood I'll go on saying again and
ever so often from time to time - - every saint has his past; and every sinner has
his future and once Jesus Christ had spoken to her, she walked out into
a brand new and different and wonderful world!
I wish I could tell you that she never again succumbed. I can't
tell you that. She may have fallen as soon as somebody else flashed
a hundred-dollar bill in front of her - - I don't know
But with all my soul I do believe that she never again really wanted to be the same.
As the words remain ringing in her ears - - "Go - - your sins which are many, are
Now I told you, about two kinds of women.
The jood woman, where did I read about her? Surprisingly enough in this case, not
in the Bible She has about six lines in the Encyclopedia Brittanica. I read about
her in a chapter in another book. Her name was Josephine Butler.
...now you won't forget, of course, this is another in the series
of sermons on "Favorite Texts of F amous Persons."
Josephine Butler was an 18th Century social reformer in gland, of whom many a person
had said, "Her life transformed all the people who ever met her" ... and a free
translation would be, her lengthened shadow was cast benignly in many directions.
You need to know several things about her:
One - - she must have been an adorable person, who was a delight to know. She
lived in the country area, somewhat removed from the city. She lived a rather shel-
tered life, buc a good life. And she paid her parents a beautiful tribute: "What I
learned about goodness I learned from my parents, by living with them." At a certain
period in her life she suffered a spiritual depression, for an entire 12-month period,
trying to f igurevoatrwhat-Sod: is really like, and what kind of a relationship she
ought to have with God. It was extremely difficult for her. And then one day she
came across this passage of Scripture, in which she discovered that just by allow-
ing yourself to be encountered by Jesus Christ, you could walk out into a brand new
"FAVORITE TEXTS; JOSEPHINE BUTLER" (7)
world. And that was the moment of enlightenment. That's one thing you need to know
about her, for this period of depression for a whole year, when she had this soul
struggle, and then was encountered by the Christ in this passage of Scripture, who
opened a new world for her.
The next thing you need to know is, that about this same time — and listen to
this very carefully, her only child, the apple of her eye, fell from the bannister,
damaged her skull, and in a matter of days, died. Not long after that, as she sat
by her window, meditating, deep in grief, she heard the bitter anguished cry of a
woman in her own back yard it was a young woman who had run away from a traveling
circus, who was involved in acrobatics....
.and the only innocent part of her life was when she
was performing her acrobatics
She didn't want that kind of life, and she ran away, and the circus people pursued
her, even to her own back yard , . . and as Josephine Butler heard the cry of this
woman crying, as much as to say, "I don't want to go back! I don't want to go
back!" Josephine Butler, for 30 years from that moment on, having suffered
the loss of her own daughter, gave her life to mothering the daughters of other
women who had fallen. She ministered to the flotsam and the jetsom of womanhood.
Two kinds of women. How will the bad ever become good, if there aren't people
who look for the good in bad people? - - who keep saying to them: "There's
another way! You don't have to go to Hell!"
But how will some people find the way to Heaven unless people possessed by the Spirit
of Christ touch them, speak to them, pay attention to them . . . ?
this I most certainly believe.
* * * *
(This sermon transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Fifth Sunday After The Epiphany February 5, 1984
" FAVORITE TEXTS OF FAMOUS PERSONS; ALLEN GARDINER "
GOD, We spend so little time in
doing this sort of thing, in giving
some measure of undivided attention
to studying of Your Word. That we
may do it the better, cleanse us now
from sin, make us fit to think Your
thoughts; in the name of Jesus
Christ, Who when He came, came
Let me read now as carefully as I can what I hope you will listen to as earn-
estly as you should, the beginning sentences for this sermon:
Today's sermon is another in the general series dealing with the
specific Bible passages that dominated or motivated certain peo-
ple in particular. You will please notice at once the definite
relationship between Scriptural truth and individual lives. The
general series is entitled: "Favorite Texts of Famous Persons "
the definite relationship between Scriptural truth and indi-
Now this statement is simply to suggest that no study of Scripture in the
Christian perspective is an end in itself. Mark it well and say it often, we dare
not become fascinated by a particular method or technique when it comes to the
study of Scriptures, so that the method obliviates the message. By the same token,
we need to say to one another that no matter how much we may master the contents of
the Scriptures, unless the material covered masters us , we may have studied in vain.
Or let me put it for you in still another way, paraphrasing Luther a bit:
"Lest the Christ of Scriptures become the Lord of
my life, I have little or no advantage over the
person who has never studied the Bible."
Today's text that commands our attention is really from one of the best-known
Psalms which we will be studying as best we can with some detail tomorrow during
the Bible Study sessions. In a certain sense, it could be designated as every-man's
text, since it readily applies to all of us, each of us. Let me read it for you now,
the tenth verse of Psalm 51:
"FAVORITE TEXTS: ALLEN GARDINER" (2)
"Create in me a clean heart. God. "
Now don't forget, we'll come back to it shortly.
Now, quite parenthetically, let me ask you a question: Have you looked at an
eleven-year old youngster lately, have you come upon an eleven-year-old youngster
quietly, unannounced, to find the person sitting and doing nothing but Just think-
ing? It's hard to tell what's going through the mind of an eleven-year-old young-
I've re-lived such experiences in my own life as the father of our two boys
and the grandfather of two other boys an eleven-year-old sitting and thinking.
It does happen. And you can't always tell what's going through their minds.
In the case of Allen Gardner, whose favorite text we're going to deal with to-
day, there was no question what was going through his mind. He had a hero, and he
was thinking of his hero. His hero was a man of the sea, the famous man of the sea.
Lord Nelson, no less, the great chap of Trafalgar.
There was something in Allen Gardner's veins that made him want to go to sea.
He was eleven when the great victory over Napoleon guaranteed the deliverance of
England. Three years later - - I have every reason to believe the wheels were
working in the mind of an eleven-year-old - - three years later he enlisted in the
navy, and off he went. Little did he realize that when he enlisted in the navy —
in those days , he was signing up for a school of immorality. Anything and every-
thing that shouldn't happen, morally speaking, was on his agenda.
He had been away at sea for a year. And then he got — we used to get them —
some of us remember them — a letter edged in black, announcing the death of someone.
He got that letter edged in black, bringing the news that his mother had died. He
experienced trauma in this regard, he was shocked. He re-lived the day he left home,
in a fit of impatience. He happened to think of her influence upon his life and what
he had known as a youngster back home. And then it occurred to him - - she was dead!
...and something terrible happened - - he cut lose from all that she had taught him,
and for ten years he lived a wicked life. You name it - - he'd tasted it! and he
wasn't about to turn his back on it. He writes regretfully the kind of life he had
lived for a decade.
And then something happened. He got two more letters, one letter from his father.
It was a letter of rebuke, reproach. His father had learned of the kind of life he
was living and he simply puts it on the line, "I can't believe that you have become
this kind of person what! — is this the youngster with whom I walked, and
"FAVORITE TEXTS: ALLEN GARfflTER" (3)
scaled the hill behind our house? Is this the lad with whom I prayed when together
we went to the altar of the Lord? Is this the lad with whom I prayed when we had
table grace and table prayers at our home? Is this the kind of person you've be-
come? ..." and he laid it on the line, rebuking his son and re-proving him
for the evil and the error of his ways.
Now he got another letter, and this letter was from a friend of his mother's,
an intimate associate. And she, too, had learned what had happened to him, and
she wrote. She wrote wisely, she wrote wlnsomely. She gave him to understand he
wasn't meant to be that kind of person, she gave him to understand that he did not
stem from that kind of stock. And then, would you believe it, she went on to preach
to him, she quoted Scripture. She introduced him to this Psalm, Psalm No. 51, which
is the Psalm of the penitent. There is no Psalm of all the penitential Psalms that
strikes to the depth as this one does.
then she zeroed in for all that she was worth and she said,
"Your heart is not pure, Allen, you need a clean heart. And only
God can give you a clean heart verse 10, Psalm 51:
' Create in me a clean heart, God, and renew a
right spirit within me. ' ..."
By this time you ought to be aware of the fact that we use these words every,'
time we come together here in Saint Luke. You will be singing them before the serv-
ice is concluded. For shame upon you if those words come so easily to your lips,
and thoughtlessly so. The lady who wrote that letter told Allen, "You either have
a clean heart, or you don't have a clean heart."
Now, let's stop at that point for a moment. I'm fully aware of the fact that
this is a line of thinking that some people don't care to hear. They shy away from
any study of Scriptures that forces them to recognize that the Bible doesn't much
deal with gray zones. We may. But the Bible doesn't. For whatever may be the rea-
son, if only to jolt us into reality, the Bible is always drawing the line:
— Heaven . . . Hell. There is no justification for the teaching
of Purgatory in the Scriptures.
Heaven . . . Hell. The line is drawn.
According to the Scriptures — don't quarrel with me — it's Scriptural truth:
— saved . . . unsaved . A line is drawn, according to the Scitiptures.
— a pure heart . . . or an impure heart : the line is drawn.
And that dear old lady had to tell Allen Gardner that, the boy that went off to sea,
and lived a wicked life. . ."Allen, your heart isn't clean it is impure. . .no matter
'FAVORITE TEXTS: ALLEN GARD;TER " (4)
how insignificant it may occur to you that a speck of dust or dirt may be, once it
appears you don't have a completely clean situation. It is no longer completely
clean." ... so she wrote Allen Gardner.
Now, I need to say this to you as carefully as I can: God be praised, she
spoke the truth, winsomely, and in love. Some people can speak the truth, but they
cannot speak it winsomely. It's an awesome thing to be able to speak the truth in
some people speak it so harshly that you're alienated from the
message . . . some people shy away from speaking the truth as pro-
foundly as it could be spoken, and then sugar-coat it and make it so
soft that the truth itself then doesn't make its impact....
But this little old lady kept speaking the truth — forcefully, and with love. And
she got her point across.
Allen Gardner began to think. He couldn't think how long it was since he had
read the Bible and he didn't have a Bible. Now let me tell you how difficult
it is for some people to get back on the straight and narrow path
. he wanted a Bible. The only place to get a Bible was to
go to the book store and buy one. And he stood outside the book
store embarrassed to go in and buy a Bible - - he wasn't that kind
of a person - - he hadn't been that kind of a person.
...and he waited until one customer went in, another
customer came out, until the store was empty of customers...
...and he went in very quickly for a Boble — grabbed it, left. And
then spent an hour, according to his own admission, before he read it,
wondering what the man thought of hLs buying a Bible . . .
That's how far he had gotten away!
Has anything that you've ever written in a letter spelled out the difference
between life and death, spiritually speaking, to another person? David Thoreau
used to shake preachers up by asking the question: "Did you preachers ever really
say anything that made a difference?" I shudder sometimes when I walk away from
this sacred desk lest, for some of you, I didn't say anything.
Marcella Steesy, who is here, remembers this very well because she knew Edna
Cassady. Edna was married to Mike, who was quite a character, and you need to
hear this - we're a family. Mike never got around to joining the church. He was
about 80 years of age when he decided that maybe it was the thing to do. It wasn't
that he didn't practice some kind of commitment to his faith, but he never publicly
"FAVORITE TEXTS; ALLEN GARDj!JER " (5)
stood up and declared it. I'm sure Edna had badgered him across the years, and
bless his soul, out of respect for her, he wanted to make arrangements to be bap-
tized and confirmed. So he wrote me a letter, and in that letter he said, "This is
my decision, and I'd like to surprise Edna, so don't you call me on the phone, be-
cause she always listens in on the conversation - - don't you call me on the phone.
But be careful what you say, let me know that you got my letter, and then we'll set
up a time when I can come to see you." . . .
- - now get this, when Mike got the letter, and I did what I could to veil
what he wanted to hear ... he came to me and he said with a great deal of
appreciation, "Pastor, I got your letter - and you didn't say a thing!"
I wish I could have taken Mike Cassady to our theological seminary at Gettys-
burg and asked him to speak to those neophyte preachers, to make certain that when
you're given the chance to communicate the Gospel you do say something .
That woman who wrote Allen Gardner did say something, and she said it well!
There's no question about it. And I want you to know, with whatever years God gives
me, for which I am profoundly grateful, I hope that what I say from this sacred desk
and what I may be able to say to you, no matter where you may find me, I may be
faithful to the Gospel....
"Create in me a clean heart, God — only you can make me clean."
You and I have a way of asking God for many things. Most of the things for
which we ask God really aren't that important, honestly now. Said the little old
lady who wrote Allen Gardner, "In the time of death, Allen, you either are, or you
Augustine, the great Church Father, used to pray, "Save me, God, but not
tonight!" That's the way it is with many of us. We want a clean heart - - but not
that clean, at least not right now.
One of my favorite Psalms remains: "Search me, God, and know my heart; try
me and know my way. And if there be any evil way in me, lead me in the way ever-
lasting ..." Only God can do it . . . only God can do it.
...how much do you want it done?
A * * A
(This sermon transcribed as recorded)
% ':•■ •'
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The S^ixth _S^today^^te r_gie_^pl2lL4gy . February 12 ^ 1984
"FAVORITE TEXTS OF FAMOUS PERSONS; GEORGE FOX"
(John 8: 12)
BY THE influence of the Holy Spirit,
Gd, quiet our minds, hush our
hearts, make us fit to think Your
thoughts; in the Name of Jesus Christ,
Who when He came, came preaching.
First, the text, the 12th verse of the 8th chapter of the Gospel according to
". . . Again Jesus spoke to them, saying. I am the light of
the world. Who follows me win_ riot walk in darkness ,
but will_ have_jthe_ lj .ght of lif e . . ..."
Anyone who says anything or does something can anticipate two possible reactions:
~ either people will pay attention, or they will not pay attention.
And of those who pay attention, there are two possible categories that cannot be ig-
— let a person say something, let a person do something, and when people
pay attention, they will either agree, or they will differ they will
either support, or they may defy.
Having said that, let's go back to this text. It's an interesting chapter in
the life of our Blessed Lord. Why He ever allowed Himself to be found in the situa-
tion I'm about to describe for you, for the life of me I can't quite tell.
He said something. He said something absolutely sublime, and with His whole
heart, and with full confidence He said what He said. He spoke as no one else had
ever spoken, and He spoke for their edification and for their encouragement. But
having said what He did, there were those who differed with Him violently, and even-
tually they became a shouting, shoving match. The net result was: He had to dodge
the stones that were hurled at Him, He had to conceal Himself from their sight, and
to find an escape route from the very House of God.
Very earnestly He said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever walks by me and
follows me, he won't walk in darkness - - he will walk in the light, the light of
life." .... and then a bunch of Pharisees came, among other people...
...they called Him a liar, they put Him on the defensive
"FAVORITE TEXTS: GEORGE FOX" (2)
Why He ever allowed Himself to have that happen I don't quite know because
eventually, as you read this chapter . . .
...I've been living with it — very earnestly, every single day
of this week, particularly in anticipation of standing among you
now . . . because you have to say, as you read the last verse of
the chapter, it was apparently a no-win situation He didn't
He had spoken the truth, they went their way, still wondering why they couldn't
kill Him. He went His way, smarting, presumably, at their remarks. But thank God
that He was able to dodge the stones, and live to preach and teach another day.
"1 am the light of the world," He said "Take me at my word — prove me! Test me!
Find out for yourself! Walk according to the truth that I've shared with you — be
to other people as I^ have been to you."
There are many ways of giving people the benediction. Occasionally here in Saint
Luke Church, and particularly on Wednesdays when we celebrate the Sacrament of the
Altar at mid-day. We may say to our people — "Go now - - walk in love and truth,
so that no matter where you may be found, love and truth will be there." Try it!
Now going back to Jesus. Why did you argue with them, Jesus? Why did
you allow them to put you on the defensive? It was a no-win situation then. From
my human perspective I think I have the answer — that we might benefit from what
He had to experience, that we might learn that the truth of His words stands on
their own. And we are in duty bound to respond to light as it's being shed our way.
Interestingly enough, these very same words that turned those people off,
and repelled them, were the words that drew the man of whom I am about to speak to
Jesus Christ. Some people have a way of responding to the light. Some people have
a way of shying away from it, defying it, ignoring it. Some people seek the light,
they want to know the truth other people don't want to know the truth. There is
something perversive about human nature in trying to put people on the defensive,
and that's exactly what happened in the life of our Blessed Lord. Remember what I
told you: some people are drawn by it . . . other people could be repelled by it.
You're not forgetting, are you, that this sermon is another in the series of
"Favorite Texts of Famous Persons. " And now I must talk to you about George Fox,
the man who was drawn to Jesus Christ, and the precious truth of the Gospel, by —
of all the verses in the Bible, this one specifically, George Fox.
Let me be . . .or rather, you be charitable with me — I'm about to hazard an
"FAVORITE TEXTS; GEORGE FOX" (3)
opinion that maybe some 85% of you are hearing about George Fox with some degree of
emphasis today for the first time. But he is someone who ought not to be ignored.
He made a tremendous contribution to religious and political life. Oh, we'll grant
you he lived some 300 years ago. He was born in 1624, no one even knows for sure
what day in July it was. At 18 years of age he was repairing shoes and then it
occurred to him, that it was very far from a satisfying experience. He had a hunger
down deep in his soul to know about God, and the truth of God. So one day he said,
"That's it!" . . . and walked away from the cobbler's bench forever.
He three himself at the mercy of other people. I'm not so sure that you would
have responded very kindly to him — he was very much the eccentric...
- - do you know where he bedded down at night?
- like as not, in the hollow of an apple tree
- - in season, do you know what was usually his daily fare? - what he ate?
- wild berries, and the fruits of a tree.
Not to be dependent upon people, clever chap that he was, remembering his days
at the cobbler's bench, he said, "I'll make me a suit that will last!" - - and he
was known as the Man-With-The-Leather-Breeches . " - - He made a leather suit , and wore
it year after year after year . . . and lived a very simple life.
He wandered around from place to place, he went to church. The very formal wor-
ship services of the church in his day did not speak to him. He listened to sermons:
none spoke to him as my old professor in seminary used to say, - "Let every sermon
speak to your edification" ... no sermon built him up, no sermon inspired him
. . .he went to Cambridge
. . .he went to Oxford
...he talked with men preparing for the ministry, he engaged
them in conversation, they made light of him....
. . . one so much as to say, "Go off and find yourself a woman, get married and for-
get about all this business" . . . another encouraged him to go back and take up his
shoe-repairman ' s trade .
But George Fox honestly believed that a person was meant to have peace. He
honestly believed that he could be at peace with other people, he could be at peace
with God. Where would he find it?
Do I have to convince you that there are those of us who come to this sacred
desk and struggle earnestly, and pray with fervor that when they stand among you.
"FAVORITE TEXTS: GEORGE FOX" (4)
their voice should be as no uncertain trumpet - - that any time anyone should come
here there should be no misunderstanding at all regarding the nature of the God
whom we love, and whom we're meant to serve - - no misunderstanding at all about
the claim of Jesus Christ upon our souls. That was not true in George Fox's day,
sad to relate. He had to go outside the established church to find his peace with
God, in a way in which he could walk that would make him at peace with his fellow
He allowed himself this absolutely marvelous notion , with which some of us
haven't dealt enough - - he allowed himself this marvelous notion: that God did not
finish speaking when He wrote the last verse of the Book of the Revelation. He
permitted himself to honestly believe that God goes on speaking, revealing Himself
directly to anyone who looks for the light .
He kept a journal. He wasn't an intellectual - - people faulted him for that.
He did not place a high value upon academic education, and yet significantly enough
— listen to this! — here in the United States: Erlon College, Haverford, Swarth-
more, Cornell, Bryn Mawr, John Hopkins - - were all founded either by groups of
Quakers or by Quaker Individuals. He honestly believed that if a person would
just quiet his mind, without benefit of formal training, and hush his heart, get
his soul to be stilled - - - God would speak to him in the very same way that God
spoke to people long, long ago.
And why not? Why should we allow ourselves to believe that God's lips were
sealed and made silent when the last book in the Bible was written? Why should we
allow ourselves to believe that God doesn't have anything to say to you and to me
personally — today — as He did to Andrew, and Simon Peter, and Judas Iscariot,
and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Mary, and Martha ... in days gone by? This
is the way he wrote in his journal: he's talking, now, about what he was looking
for: peace, peace of soul - - oneness with God, and a high regard for other people.
"These things I did not see by the help of man, nor by letter . . "
(and there he is referring to the Scriptures,
I am sorry to say)
"... though they are written in the letter. But I saw them
in the light of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by His immediate
spirit and powers, as did the holy men of God, by whom the
Holy Scriptures were written. ..."
Ask yourself what he's saying. He's saying, "As it happened then and there, in cen-
turies gone by, it's happening now. And if I have to go outside the Church to find
"FAVORITE TEXTS: GEORGE FOX" (5)
it . . " Isn't that an unpleasant thought, isn't that an uncomfortable thought?
Do you realize how earnestly some of us commit ourselves to our calling? —
that no one should ever come to a place such as this and not be able to recognize
the truth of God — spoken in love and with conviction. But in the day of George
Fox that wasn't happening, and he was pretty much on his own. God be praised. He's
forever mindful of His own, and seeker after truth is never disappointed. And God
did reveal Himself to George Fox.
George Fox founded the Society of Friends, he founded the Quakers. For 300
years they have had a marvelous influence in many parts of the world. And if you
think all they did was sit and fold their hands and remain quiet, you are mistaken.
They were the leaders in one social reform after another — in England and in the
You see, the trouble with those people who rejected Jesus Christ when He said,
"I am the light of the world" was because they believed that they had to intellec-
tualize what He was saying. Now don't get me wrong, I place a high value on the
intellectual, and I firmly believe that what we preach and teach ought to be intel-
ligible and respected by the intellectual. But you and I come into some difficulty
when we simply settle in all too easily on intellectualizing.
...those people in Jesus' day were trying to intellectualize God ,
they were trying to intellectualize what God was saying when the
lips of Jesus Christ were parted and certain words were spoken,
and they couldn't quite figure it out, and it didn't make sense
to them . . . and because it didn't make sense to them they
did not accept it
...now don't you dare misunderstand me. Our Lord said, "Thou
shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy
soul, with all thy mind .."... and I hope and pray that
whatever preaching is delivered from this desk will command
your respect intellectually. But you don't stop at that point,
and you don't come simply to be intellectually satisfied
I don't know that it will ever be possible for us, from an intellectual point
of view, to ever perfectly and completely understand everything that God has said.
At some risk I stand before you now! Any number of you might not be able to under-
stand what I'm trying to say, wrestle as I may with my mind and with my heart and
"FAVORITE TEXTS: GEORGE FOX" (6)
with my soul before I even come to this sacred desk, lest anyone misunderstand, mis-
interpret. In the day of Jesus, the people who gave Jesus a rough time, and who
threw stones at him, were deliberately defying Him because they could not intellec-
tualize what He was saying.
Why do I make much of this? George Fox comes along and admits to himself that
he can't possibly intellectualize it and completely understand it. But in the spirit
of Kierkegaard, he says, "The ultimate is not to understand . . "
— that is to say, the most wonderful thing is not to be able
to understand completely - -
" . . the ultimate is to act upon it."
And that;s exactly what George Fox did. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world"
....and he acted upon it. He took those words seriously and began to do something
about it. He didn't much worry about how he could apprehend the full meaning of
the words, but he did live the words, and prove them, in the crucible of life itself.
And so he began walking in the light of the footsteps of Jesus Christ. He walked
where Jesus walked. And what happened? The Quakers more than any people I know —
say it sublimely and practice it exceedingly well - - they look for that which is
of God in every person. That's what it is to walk in the light of Jesus Christ.
He sheds light on every human soul. Jesus Christ looks upon every single one of us
as an object of His love. Jesus Christ looks upon every single one of us as a poten-
tial for good. George Fox acted upon that.
... I will be traveling with our Saint Luke band of pilgrims
to the Holy Land this week — I'll re-live so many of their
steps. There is no place in all of God's earth to which I
would sooner return again and often than the Holy Land... and
I think out of the Holy Land comes the devout Arab concern
for even the tiniest scrap of paper — the devout Arab will
not discard the tiniest scrap of paper because he says, no
matter how small it may be, the name of God, the name of Allan,
can still be written on it" ... to see people through the
lens of God, through the light of love, is to honestly believe
that no person, no matter how insignificant, that person is
still someone on whom the name of God is written....
— thank our Quakers for that .
They didn't always understand George Fox. They threw him in jail at least
eight times in twenty years. And it wasn't until England passed the Toleration Act
"FAVORITE TEXTS; GEORGE FOX" (7)
that they gave any kind of respect to his teachings and to his groups. George Fox
and the Quakers, begins to see the light in your face, and in m^ face. He acts
upon that, he looks for that which is of God in every person.
And the second thing the Quakers have done for us — more than any other group,
they value silence. Being made quiet, taking Scriptural truth at its words: "Be
still and know that I am God." - - - "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call
upon Him while He is near . . " - - make the climate that provides the environment
so God can be heard.
I think if necessity dictated it, I could be a Quaker, even
though I love to sing and hear you sing . .
- - and I place a high value upon the kergyma, the proclamation
of the Gospel, there's the time when God's Word has to be inter-
preted. . . .
- - and music remains a very important ingredient in our worship
experience, I don't have to tell you that, where I stand on that
ground. .. .when I went to my first parish, the very first
staff member that I asked that the congregation
consider retaining was a choirmaster and organist
...and when I came to you 28 years ago, the very
first staff member that I asked this congregation
to add was a choirmaster and an organist...
All these things I cherish, but I also know, with all the
clamor and the confusion, and no matter how we may use other
things to encourage you to think the thoughts of God, there
comes the time when we must be made very, very quiet . . .
My debt is very great to my predecessors here at Saint Luke. Long before I
came to you, they wove into the spiritual, the religious life, the worship life
of this parish the period of quiet before the service begins, and the period of
quiet at the end of the service "Be still and know that I am God. "
....Quakers do that, more than any people I know. Can I describe
for you very quickly a Quaker service as I remember it? You gather
together, and for some 45 minutes you remain quiet. No stained-
glass windows, as much as I appreciate them....
— no organ, as much as I believe it to be the mightiest
instrument of praise known to the mind of man....
— no altar, as much as I believe a focal point to be necessary....
"FAVORITE TEXTS: GEORGE FOX" (8)
...but a room as plain as plain can be, people are quieted
and hushed by the Spirit, for a significant amount of time,
— and then perchance someone speaks, and all people present
permit themselves to believe that God, the Spirit, has chosen
that person in particular to speak to them through his voice
and their voice
I sometimes say to myself, we ought to provide this kind of an opportunity for
the people of this parish, maybe at Vespers sometimes, on a Sunday of each month we
could follow a pattern of worship as experienced in other denominations - - one Sun-
day we'd worship the way the Presbyterians do, another Sunday night at Vespers we'd
follow the order for the Church of Christ, or the Methodists, or the Episcopalians,
or the Roman Catholic order, or the Greek Orthodox order. And I most certainly
would covet for us a time when we might follow the pattern of the Quakers. George
Fox discovered that light does not shout. Like a candle with its flame burning, it
doesn't say, "Pay attention to me." it simply glows. You light a candle sometime
in a darkened room and discover the transforming quality, just by a candle doing
what it's meant to do — to glow, and we find ourselves being transformed.
George Fox, bless his soul — the ultimate is not perhaps in being able to
fully understand what God says. The ultimate comes in acting
upon it - - - believing Him trusting Him.
- - Walk, then, in love and in truth, so that no
matter where you may be found, love and truth
will be there. This I most certainly believe. . .
(This sermon transcribed as
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Seventh Sunday After Epiphany February 19, 1 984
'FAVORITE TEXTS OF FAMOUS PERSONS:
LEO TOLSTOY^ (Matthew 6:33)
GRACE, Mercy and Peace from God our
Father and from His Son Jesus Christ,
our Blessed Lord. Amen.
First, let me read you the passage of Scripture upon which this sermon is
based -- the words of Jesus Christ, recorded as a part of the 6th chapter of the
Gospel according to Matthew,
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your
life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink,
nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is life
not more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air, they neither sow nor
gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds
them. Are you not of more value than they? And which
of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span
of life? ~
And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the
lilies of the field, they neither toil nor spin, yet
I tell you even Solomon in all his glory was not ar-
rayed like one of these!
But if God so clothes the grass of the field which
today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven,
will He not much more clothe you, men of little
Therefore do not be anxious, saying what shall we eat,
or what shall we drink, or what shall we wear? For
the Gentiles seek all these things, and your Heavenly
Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his
Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things
shall be yours as well."
Everything that you're going to hear as far as this morning's sermon is concerned,
is inspired by this particular passage of Scripture.
I'm absolutely convinced that there are two kinds of people - - we're always
doing this sort of thing, dividing people into two categories:
-- those who take the teachings of Jesus Christ very,
-- and those who upon hearing them, do not take them
"FAVORITE TEXTS: LEO TOLSTOY" (2)
There was a person to took this passage of Scripture with the utmost of seri-
ousness, and it changed his life - - so much so that he became the greatest novelist,
some people say, of all time! And undoubtedly Leo Tolstoy has written one of the
two or three greatest novels in all of the literature of the world. Leo Tolstoy
took that verse of Scripture seriously.
Now in about 18 minutes this sermon is going to conclude. Let me tell you how
it's going to conclude right now. I'm going to read for you, very carefully and
earnestly, about something that Leo Tolstoy wrote. He has a powerful tale of a young
Russian who fell heir to his father's small farm. He was no sooner in possession of
this land until he began to dream eagerly of how he could add to it. One morning a
stranger, evidently a person of power and authority, came to him and told him, as
they were standing near the old homestead, that he could have, for nothing, all the
land that he could walk over in one day ... but at sun-down he must be back at the
very place from which he started. Pointing to the grave of the young man's father,
the stranger said, "This is the point to which you must return."
The youth, looking eagerly over the rich fields in the distance, threw off his
coat, and without waiting to say a word to his wife and children, started off across
the fields . . .
-- his first plan was to cover a tract of ground six miles square,
but when he had walked the sixth, he decided to make it nine, and
then twelve ... and then fifteen -- which would give him sixty miles
to walk before sun-down . . .
-- by noon he had covered two sides of the square, or 30 miles. But
eager to get on and compass the whole distance, he did not stop for
food ... an hour later he saw an old man drinking at a spring, but
in his thirst for the land, he pushed aside the cup which the old
man offered to him, and rushed on in his eager quest for the land . . .
...when he was a few miles from the goal he was worn down with fatigue. A few hun-
dred yards from the line he saw the sun approaching the horizon, and knew that he
had but a few minutes left. Hurrying on and ready to faint, he summoned all of his
energies for his last effort and managed to stagger across the line just as the sun
was sinking . . . but as he crossed the line he saw a cruel, cynical smile on the
face of the stranger who had promised him the land. The man, the stranger, was wait-
ing for him with that cruel cynical smile upon his face, as he stood by the father's
grave. Just as he crossed the line, the master and possessor, he thought, of fifteen
square miles of rich land, the youth fell dead upon the ground which he had coveted.
"FAVORITE TEXTS: LEO TOLSTOY" (3)
The stranger then said to the servants, "I offered him all the land that he
could cover - - now you see what that is! — six feet long by two feet wide -- and
I thought he would like to have the land close to his father's grave rather than
to have it anywhere else." . . . and with that the stranger, who was Death, vanished
saying as he did so, "I've kept my pledge."
It takes a bit of doing to write like that. Something must have gripped a man's
soul to be able to be as perceptive of life as all that. Some transformation must
have taken place, so that a person could read life in those terms. And that's exact-
ly what had happened. Leo Tolstoy was not always that perceptive. He was born into
a rather comfortable estate. But very early in life he became a seeking, searching
soul. Very early in life he began to think deeply.
Now I need to tell you this, but not all people think, and not all people think
deeply. The year in which I was ordained as a pastor of the United Lutheran Church
in America the Chief Pastor and Bishop of our souls at that time. Dr. Frederick
Knubel , sharp mind, dry wit, used to say — "Take time to think -- you have little
Of all those who take time to think, few really think deeply. Tolstoy was one
of the few who thought deeply. His whole life, it can be said, was involved in the
thinking, searching process. He took nothing for granted. He painstakingly examined
all that the philosopher proposed . . . who was it who wrote of him -- "In his daring
search he knocked at the door of Heaven and rattled at the very gates of Hell. He
scaled the heights and sounded the depths - - nothing was too exalted, and nothing
was too depraved for his inquiring mind. It was the story of his life. Happily,
the search led him to the Scriptures, and there he found the only satisfying answer
to his big question: What is the aim of human life? Why do I live?
Tolstoy crystal ized his thinking and put it into these words:
"The personal good of the individual man, or even of
the family or of the state, cannot be the ultimate
aim of life. The meaning of human life does not con-
sist in each man's acquiring his personal and short-
lived good at the expense of another. The meaning
of your life can only be the fulfillment of His will
who, for the attainment of His ends, has sent you
into thi s 1 ife . . . ."
You need to know this about Tolstoy, the man in whose soul the Scripture became
alive. He wrote a number of things. He also wrote his CONFESSIONS -- a confession
that was good for his soul and for ours. Said he, "I remember that in my 12th year
a boy -- by now long since dead, a pupil in the Gymnasium, spent a Sunday with us
"FAVORITE TEXTS: LEO TOLSTOY" (4)
and brought us the news of the last discovery in the Gymnasium -- namely, that there
was no God and that all that we were taught on that subject was a pure invention.
How interested we were! We all eagerly accept the theory as something particularly
attractive, and possibly quite true." ... So Tolstoy lost God, if one may use
that figure of speech. But those who knew Tolstoy said the loss was not very great,
for up until that time he said he believed in God - - which was simply his way of
saying "I would not deny the existence of God." But in what God he so languidly be-
1 ieved, Tolstoy could not have said. And so for years he drifted - - much as a ship
without a compass, without a chart.
I am reluctant to tell you this, but you need to hear it
- - He did live a despicable life for a certain period, in his
eagerness to find what life is all about. Hear Tolstoy now on Tolstoy:
"... I cannot recall these years
(referring now to those years when he was drifting,
living without a commitment to God)
... I cannot recall these years without horror
and disgust - - I killed men in war
- - I challenged others to duels in order to
- - I squandered money at cards
- - I ill-treated my parents
- - I rioted with loose women, I deceived men
- - - ly ing. .. robbery ... .adul tery. . .forn icat ion,
drunkedness ... .violence. .. .murder - - - there was no crime
that 1 left uncommitted - -
And yet I was considered by my equals as a comparatively moral
It wasn't until he was 50 years of age -- married for some fifteen years, with
13 children in that period of time, that in all of his searching he was gripped by
the passage of Scripture that was read a short while ago, and that one verse in
particular - - "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all
these things shall be yours as well."
It is absolutely amazing what happens when somebody takes Jesus Christ seri-
ously. For shame upon Tolstoy, one may say, that roughly speaking, two-thirds of
his life should have been spent, with only a third of his years remaining by which
to live according to this convict ion. ... that one should put off so long being
"FAVORITE TEXTS: LEO TOLSTOY" (5)
gripped by what is fundamentally true!
You know that I have spent my life and my energy ever since God made me a pastor,
interpreting God's Word. And while I try to remain a keen student of the human scene,
for the life of me I can't understand why people are so slow in accepting the funda-
mental truths of God, because 1 ife i tsel f has a way of driving us to our knees - -
life itself has a way of proving the integrity of Scriptural truth. At 50 years of
age Tolstoy found it, and his life was never again the same. What he believed now
is being reflected in what he wrote. He became completely didactic and moral in all
that he wrote. He subscribed tenaciously to the doctrine that love is the way to
live. It needs to be said, he lost faith in governments, he lost faith in institu-
tions. For him the only hope for the world was in a transformed individual. He
believed the destiny was in the hands of those who came to grips with what God had
proclaimed - - - and in their own individual way applied these truths -- where they
lived, in the lives they touched.
He renounced personal property. He had little patience with the institutional
church, he said it had fai led him. He also allowed himself to believe that he
should live a simple life. He made his own boots, his own shoes, tilled his own
garden, grew his own food . . . even wore the clothing, in the latter years of his
life, of a peasant. For it was the peasant whose fervent faith had made real to him
the precious truths of Jesus Christ.
You need to know the whole story. He almost drove his wife mad, of course, al-
lowing her to worry about things that were so important for bringing up the children,
and caring for all the mundane things that had to be dealt with. In the latter part
of his life he gathered enough courage to say, "I'm going to live this life as Jesus
announced with complete abandon . . . and he convinced one of his daughters to go
with him, and also his personal physician. And the three of them went off, hope-
fully to live completely and earnestly according to the admonition, the directive of
Jesus Christ. Within three days he was stricken with pneumonia and died at an out-
of-way rail station somewhere in Russia. But his legacy remains -- pricking the
conscience of every single one of us.
Oh, his wife was smart. She arranged for the copyrights in the latter part of
his writing period to be signed over to her, knowing the kind of person he was going
to become, so that she might be protected. But to all intents and purposes, every-
body pays the price in order that somebody else might live wholeheartedly according
to the convictions of Jesus Christ . . . and to all intents and purposes everybody
pays the price when someone doesn' t take Jesus Christ seriously.
"FAVORITE TEXTS: LEO TOLSTOY" (6)
We all pay a price when there are those who want to move in the direction of
Heaven ... and we all pay a price when there are those who move in the direction
of Hell. Bluntly put, you pay your money, you take your choices! -- you either
say "Bravo!" to a person like Tolstoy, whose lengthened shadow is cast benignly
upon every single one of us, pricking our minds to the day we die
-- How much land does a person really need?
Tolstoy's immortal story is simply saying it again and ever so often - there are
no pockets in a shroud.
Interesting, isn't it? - - Saint Luke pilgrims go hal f-a-worl d-away just to
walk in the footsteps of a penniless preacher, whose words are echoed from this
pulpit Sunday after Sunday after Sunday.
Fifty years of age . . . Tolstoy saw the light
Fifty years of age, the light that he had seen -- outside the church!
— that's threatening, it's intimidating, it's uncomfortable...
Why do we grab? ... why do we shove? ... why do we push on for only one thing?
- to accumulate, to take pride in what we can grab! - and tuck away!
That Penniless Preacher one day said, "This night thy soul shall be
required of thee — then whose will these things be?"
Jesus said it first. Tolstoy picked it up.
Some of us can never again be the same, once we've read
his echo of the words of Jesus Christ.
(This sermon transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
Th e Eighth Sunday After the Epiphany , Februar y 26, 1984
"FAVORITE TEXTS OF FAMOUS PERSONS "
Richard Baxter (Luke 18:13)
GRACE, Mercy and Peace from God
our Father and from His Son Jesus
Christ, our Blessed Lord. Amen.
This now Is the passage of Scripture that we will want to keep In mind as the
sermon unfolds, recorded as the 18th chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, be-
ginning with the 9th verse:
"Two men went up Into the temple to pray; the one
a Pharisee, and the other a publican ! "^
The Phar isee stood and prayed thus with himself,
God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men "are7 ~
extortioner s, unjust, adulterers, or even as this'
publican. ~ ~~
I fast tw ice In the week, I give tithes of all
that I possess,
And the publican, standing afar off, would not
lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote
upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a
slnnerT ~ ' ~~ ~
I tell you, th is man went down to his house justi-
fied rather than the other; for every one that
exalteth him self shall be abased; and he that hum -
bleth himself shall be exalted ..."
Interesting, Isn't It, how on certain occasions something hits you right between
the eyes that you should have known all along, and then you're able to articulate
It, and you say — "That's exactly It!"
I've had difficulty In my ministry trying to understand why people could dislike
Jesus Christ. Don't misunderstand me. I've had a love affair with Him ever since my
Sunday School teacheis first taught me about Him. I respond to people who are kind,
I respond to people who are good. I crave responding to people who show themselves
kindly disposed toward me and who love me. And I have always believed that that was
the kind of a person Jesus is. And I'm always grateful for people who can make God
real to me - - and that I understood Jesus was meant to do...
and I could never quite understand why eventually they
did Him in in the end ....
And then the other day it hit me right between the eyes! You know what? - He was
always drawing a line! Sometimes I think He was the greatest line-drawer In history
. . . always drawing a line.
"FAVORITE TEXTS: RICHARD BAXTER" (2)
He did that, you know
— He talked about sheep — (draw a line) — goats .
— He talked about Heaven — (draw a line) — He talked about Hell .
— He talked about the lost —
and then a line was drawn, as He talked about the found .
— He talked about the saved — and the unsaved
(and what is that but drawing a line?)
Really now, and knowing human nature as I do, they have an appreciation for lines if
they can either do the drawing of a line, or if the line is to their benefit.
When Winifred and I come back from the hills-of-home, you have no idea how happy
we are to see those lines coming off Route 270 into 495 — we appreciate those lines
of demarcation . .. .and we fervently pray that people should stay where they're meant
to stay as far as that line is concerned. But when it comes to drawing lines, between
Heaven and Hell. . .between light and darkness. .. .between good and evil — sometimes
there's something in us that doesn't like the drawing of a line (with apologies to
Robert Frost, of course).
Frankly speaking, you see, in this whole business of goodness and evil, some of
us sometimes wish that line were not there — because we thoroughly enjoy being bad,
a little bit bad, you know — maybe not real bad. But there is that line, you know.
And then on the other hand, some of us enjoy being good - but maybe not real good....
...but there is that line.
Before I came to you, serving in Messiah's Church in South Williamsport, we had
a number of grand and good people, of course we did. One of them was Louise Wilhelmina
Niemeyer — I suppose she was 70, 75, 80 years of age, a maiden lady. And one day I
found myself saying to her, "Be good, Louise." - - and she said, "I should say not! —
I'd be too lonesome!"
....you see, the crowd out there is having a whale-of-a-time,
in being just a little bit bad — thoroughly enjoying it!
That;s why we don't like that line — that's so sharp! One side good
. . the other side bad .
I'm inclined to believe that this is the trouble, as I observe the human scene.
We want to erase the line, we want to pretend it isn't there! And we want to thorough-
ly enjoy drifting in various shades of gray.
But we need those lines, we need them. We may never be as good as we ought to be,
but we need to be reminded of the goodness that we need to espouse. And Jesus was
"FAVORITE TEXTS; RICHARD BAXTER" (3)
laying it on the line by drawing the line.
I should tell you that in the passage of Scripture that I read for you. He was
drawing the line again. And you can understand that better when I tell you that I
didn't read that whole passage of Scripture, I neglected to read the introductory
sentence. And the introductory sentence reads like this:
"... And he spoke this parable unto certain who
trusted in themselves that they were righteous,
and despised others . . . "
...there He was, drawing the line again! People who thought they were good / and
they drew a line and looked down their nose at other people....
" . . Two men went up into the temple to pray; the
one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself,
God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are,
extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this
I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all
that I possess.
And the publican, standing afar off, would not
lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote
upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a
sinner. . . "
Jesus was drawing lines, a sharp line in this case.
And whether you realize it or not, you and I are always drawing lines. Brace
yourself, whether you realize it or not, some of us have been drawing lines ever
since we sat down in this place. I have to put it to you — right up front — people
come to church for different reasons. What's yours?
....that's a personal question, you say. And you're
absolutely right, and just because it is personal it
needs to be taken seriously. If you don't mind, I'm
going to deal with that when I finish speaking this morning
Some people come to church to tell God how good He is
— all kinds of laudatory things are said. And if saying, speaking, that is, were
not enough, somewhat to us inadequate, if you please, we loudly sing, or softly
chant, what amounts to exclamation . . . the kind of thing we've already done in
this service, in what our music ministry has provided us, enthusiastically. And
then to top it all off — you may not have thought of this — we get instruments
into the picture — the organ as an example, the mightiest instrument of praise
known to the human mind, is used where? primarily in churches, and cathedrals, and
synagogues. Where will you inevitably find the organ? Primarily in temples of
praise. And when we come to church we praise God for any number of things, and all
"FAVORITE TEXTS; RICHARD BAXTER " (4)
because of who He is and what He does. That's why some of us come to church,
and it's not a bad reason . . . it's a good reason. . . . .
Now get ready for this one — you're not expecting this one:
Some people come to church to tell God that His track record needs improving. He
should up-date His activity a bit
— God, according to their needs or pressing predicament, hasn't been doing as
much as they think He's done in the past, nor even as much as they think He's
capable of doing in the present moment. And they show up in church on a given
Sunday, they bring such matters to His attention. This could be true — there
are some of you here today just because you said, "God, I have this problem,
and I want it resolved now ! You can do it, but I don't see much activity on
your part, God. You've produced before — why are you dragging your feet this
. . . .people who come to church in this manner and this method
recall better and brighter days, and they honestly believe
that bigger benefits could and should be in the offing, right now .
That's why some people come to church, really now. And it could
be a somewhat acceptable reason, as long as it's honest, even
though it's done boldly.
You ready for more?
Some people, I do believe, come to church not to talk about God, but to talk about
and in doing so they, like as not, will probably do one of two things —
maybe both! - if they could. Let's reduce it to ourselves:
...we who have come to church may either, as we talk about
ourselves, tell God how good we are . . .or, how bad we
have been behaving. Now, let's think about that for a little
First, this business of telling God how good we are. You're about to protest
somewhat, aren't you? You really can't quite figure out why anyone, and es-
pecially the preacher, whose responsibility is to get you on your feet as
soon as you're here, to get you on your feet in no time at all when the serv-
ice begins with such words as these upon your lips: "We poor sinners confess
unto Thee ..." — that such a person would ever so much as imply that we're
showing up, whatever effort it takes, to draw God's attention to our goodness.
Well now, maybe we don't say it so much in words, but we sure do have a very
comfortable feeling right now, or at least a few moments ago, didn't we? We
"FAVORITE TEXTS; RICHARD BAXTER" (5)
feel very good about ourselves, being here. We feel very good about ourselves-,
being with one another. We feel very good being with people who when they
stand, look in the direction toward God!
....and yet when we take time to think about it, that Pharisee
felt very good about himself when he went to church, felt so
good about it that he mouthed off, listed all the reasons why
he felt God should give him brownie points ... as for instance:
- we are inside God's House — that makes us the good ones
(you draw a line)
...there are all those people who aren't
here, the folks who don't show up. Psycholo-
gically, we're in — they're out.
We feel good about ourselves! Wittingly or unwittingly, we're
branding them bad.
Be careful !
- we haven't come empty-handed — that makes us feel good;
/ ...the bad ones are the people who don't
support the Lord's work.
...and even though we have to give more because they give less,
the net result remains, we feel the better because of it. And this
really does make us feel good as we stand at attention on this
Sunday morning roll call in this place:
"Present, God — present and accounted for!
And look what I've brought you!"
- and when you come to think of it, we feel good while we're here,
standing in God's presence, because we haven't told a deliberate
lie, we haven't told a great big black bold lie for so long that
we can't even remember when we told the tiniest bit of a lie....
/...and all the time there are all those other
people whom we know, with whom we have to deal,
who cheat, steal and deceive — ah, we draw the
line, you see —
We haven't done that, we're good —
/ — they've done it, they're doing it,
they're bad !
And in contrast, sharp or otherwise, that's the way it is!
"FAVORITE TEXTS; RICHARD BAXTER " (6)
You know, of course, that makes us the good ones. Come now, we'd like to think
that at some time in some way or another we'd like to think that before this hour is
over, that God will make note of that, and give us good and proper credit. That
makes us feel good, especially as we anticipate the way this sermon is going to end!
You ought to sit down sometime and seriously probe the meaning of the liturgy and
follow it through to its logical conclusion
...We begin telling God that we're not very good, that
we are a bunch of miserable sinners. .. .and the service ends,
then, after we've talked like that to God, with God stretching
forth His hand and the preacher raises his arms in benediction
( benediction - that's the word, it comes from
the Latin which means "a word well spoken")
...and by the time the service is over, no matter what we've
done, no matter what we've said, no matter how we have been in
the past week, God's going to say to us, "I bless you."
....God's going to say to you, "I've forgiven you!"
God's going to say to you, "I need you — I'm counting on you.!"
...and that makes us feel good.
Please, I'm frequently transparent when I stand among you. You have no idea what
it does to me sometimes when one of you may say to me, "Pastor, I need you - - Pastor,
I'm counting on you " - - that makes me want to be better than I am , in order that I
may produce, that your need could be met. And when this service is over and God gives
us His benediction, that is exactly what He is saying to us: "I need you, I'm counting
on you to go out into the world and to live as my obedient servants — to get on with
the business of loving and living and laughing! and learning. So to all intents and
purposes we feel good because by the time the benediction is pronounced, God's giving
us His stamp of approval, a final and good word spoken by God, and beaming from
Heavenward toward us embracingly.
Now we need to pass to the other person, that perchance here and there among us
there could be some folks who have come to church to talk about themselves, not to
tell God how good they are, but how bad they are . To accommodate such people, the
liturgy is sublime in this regard. The very first item on our agenda in this mar-
velous way of worshipping that we exercise in the Lutheran Church, the very first
item on the agenda is the Confession of Sins. To the person who's come to church
to tell God that he's not as good as he knows he ought to be, who's been more bad
than he should have been, the heading is there in bold letters in the liturgy:
CONFESSION OF SINS
"FAVORITE TEXTS; RICHARD BAXTER " (7)
The older Prayer Book of the Anglican Church went so far as to phrase it this way:
not simply, "We poor sinners" but "We poor miserable sinners . . "
...not simply to say, "We have offended thee, God" — but it said
" . . have grievously offended thee, God."
Now, no one much likes to invade the privacy of another's prayer life. I think I
did that once unwittingly. I greatly appreciate being able to come to church and
sit where you sit, and this occurs for me every now and then when we have a plain
service of the Holy Communion, and somebody else conducts it.
A number of Sundays ago I came on that first Sunday of the month and sat near
the back of the Nave, Had my private devotions, I prayed, my soul was being made
quiet . . . completely unaware of the fact that somebody had come in and sat behind
me, and I was totally unaware of that until my silence was broken by something that
I heard being said - - that precious person behind me, in soft and earnest words,
said this, as she had her personal devotions, "Dear God, forgive me all my sins, and
help me to become better. .. .Dear God, forgive everybody their sins, and help them to
... to the day I die I hope that memory will keep that voice before
me, for you see, the two go together. There is no way we can become
better until we see ourselves as the forgiven.
The way to a better step is to be accepted in love by a step that might have been
taken earlier that was less than commendatory. That's what forgiveness does! And God
says, "Come along now, you're forgiven, in order that you might become better!" And
that's the only way you're going to become better! You see, that's exactly what for-
giveness does. In the parable of the Pharisee and the publican, which I've already
recited for you twice, that was the cardinal issue: the Pharisee was without fault ~
his record was beyond reproach! He had in his own eyes reached the point where he
could stand before God and say, "Look how good I am!" He honestly permitted himself
to believe that he had arrived - - so much so that he had no need for God!
...no one ever gets that good! With all my soul, if you'd
ask me what life has taught me, I'd have to say at best —
^t ^^st — we've blundered, we've never quite pulled it off
as well as it should have been, especially in the eyes of God.
But the Pharisee thought he had.
Now the other chap — remember, the line is drawn .... the other chap, poor
fellow, he saw himself so down that the only way he could go was up. With God's
help he could become better, so he didn't spend his energy vindicating himself.
"FAVORITE TEXTS; RICHARD BAXTER" (8)
drifting around in various areas of gray. In the parable that Jestis spoke, the Phari-
see was condemned because all that he did was to speak about his goodness - - now, not
that Jesus condemns goodness. The publican was praised because all that he did was
to talk about his badness — not so, that's only part of the story. The publican was
praised because he first thought about God, and then he talked about his sins, and then
he talked about mercy. "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner." And that, too, is in our
. . . are you aware how often in this service this morning we've
said, "Lord, have mercyl". . . "Lord, have mercy[". . " "Lord, have
mercy! "... "Lord, have mercy [ .."?...
We sing the praise of the man who couldn't muster up to his credit a single good
thing, because low down as he was, he became the closest to God. And the Pharisee
was so good that he was separated from God.
This is another in the series of sermons on " Favorite Texts of Famous Persons "
- - this is the text of a peracher. Incidentally, of all these thirteen sermons in
this series, we'll only talk about two preachers in the series. All the rest are
lay people. This is the favorite text of Richard Baxter, a marvelous English preacher
of 200 years ago, who doi±>led and tribled his congregation within a ten-year period
by a simple thing - - without benefit of a lot of elaborate programming — never so
much as a telephone or a mimeograph machine, never as much as with the benefit of a
staff . . . but Richard Baxter was a person who, whatever his sin, called out to God,
"Have mercy!" . . . and he knew himself forgiven. And from that moment on he preached
as a dying man to dying men, and in every encounter that he had — "God loves you" . .
"God loves you" . . . "God loves you — respond to His mercy and walk in that measure of
redeeming love." That was the key-note of his preaching.
I should hope that when I for one person stand at this sacred desk, you would be
aware of the fervor of faith, for I too preach to you as a dying man — to dying men
— which is simply to say, as one who knows he's been forgiven. To all of you who
may still need the awareness of what it is to be numbered in the body of the redeemed.
What do I do on my knees before I come to this sacred desk — are you aware of
that, that I pray before I come here? These are the words I read, the words of Richard
"I seldom come out of the pulpit that my conscience
smiteth me, that I have not been more serious and
fervent in such a case. It accuseth not so much of
for want of ornaments or elegancy, nor for letting
fall an unhandsome word. But it asks me. How could
"FAVORITE TEXTS; RICHARD BAXTER" (9)
you speak of life and death with such a heart? How
could you preach of Heaven in such a careless,
sleepy manner? Do you believe what you say? Are
you in earnest or in jest? Should you not weep
over such people and should you not have tears
that interrupt your words?
Truly, this is the zeal that conscience doth ring
in my ears: Lord, do that on our own souls that
you would have us do on the souls of others."
"In my heart there rings a melody, a melody of God's forgiving love, "... which
makes me want to get on with another day. This I most certainly believe.
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Transfiguration of Our Lord March 4, 1984
"SOMETHING TO REMEMBER "
WE MAKE so little time, Lord, to do
this sort of thing, to give some measure
of undivided attention to the interpre-
tation of your Holy Word. That we should
make the most of it, cleanse us from sin
and enlighten us by your Holy Spirit; in
the name of Jesus Christ, who when He
came, came preaching. Amen.
By this time you're probably aware of the fact that the sermon series for
the most part being heard from this Saint Luke Pulpit has been on the general theme
of "FAVORITE TEXTS OF FAMOUS PERSONS." That series, now, is being interrupted for
the next few weeks for understandable reasons. The sermon that you are about to
hear at this time has been especially prepared for this Sunday that marks the Trans-
figuration of Our Blessed Lord.
The sermon is based upon that passage of Scripture, the Gospel for the Day,
Matthew 17: verses 1-9, and the sermon bears the title: "SOMETHING TO REMEMBER ."
We all need that shining moment that did occur — that shining moment which
comes to us as something to remember, someone to remember, some place to remember,
an experience over and above what we ordinarily know, so that when we recall it
we're stabilized, and we can persevere with patience the course which we have yet
I want to talk to you this morning really about two things: first, about
something that happened , and then secondly, why I think it happened the way it did.
Now please listen carefully as I read for you again what has already been
read for us, and read so well — the Gospel lesson for this particular Sunday. We
can afford to give it this added attention for two reasons at least — one, it is
the passage of Scripture that appears in all three Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke,
and basically very much the same — little variation.
...and the second reason why I ask you to give it added attention is
because all that you're going to hear, presumably, in the next eighteen
minutes, is inspired by this passage of Scripture:
"SOMETHING TO REMEMBER" (2)
" . . And after six days Jesus took with him
Peter and James and John his brother, and led
them up a high mountain apart . And he was
transfigured before them, and his face shone
like the sun, and his garments became white as
light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses
and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to
Jesus, 'Lord, it is well that we are here; if you
wish, I will make three booths here, one for you
and one for Moses and one for Elijah.' He was
still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud over-
shadowed them, and a voice from the clomd said,
'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well
pleased; listen to him. ' When the disciples
heard this, they fell on their faces, and were
filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them,
saying, 'Rise, and have no fear. ' And when they
lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus
only. . . . "
Now let's be honest with each other. If I were to stand here this morning
and tell you, I want to talk to you about a sermon that Jesus once preached — chan-
ces are you wouldn't have too much difficulty, even if I related for you a parable
that He Incorporated into His sermon, a parable which the people who heard it origi-
nally had some difficulty in getting the main point so much so that Jesus had
to chide them. . . well, say it again, if I were giving you a sermon that Jesus
preached, you wouldn't have too much difficulty. It might be over and above your
ability to maintain the standard that Jesus exalts, but at least Jesus-the-preacher-
that you can handle.
- - or if I came here this morning and said, "I want to
talk to you about one of the miracles that Jesus performed
— now maybe you can't understand miracles, and maybe
you can't honestly believe that it is possible for
Jesus to have done them.... I know that there are peo-
ple who have great difficulty with miracles — Thomas
Jefferson was one of them. There's a so-called Jeffer-
son Bible in which he went through the New Testament,
he went all through the life and teachings of Jesus
Christ and cut out every reference to the supernatural
or to the miracle. It didn't mean a thing to him, so
he discounted them . . .
...but even if I said, "I want to talk to you about a
miracle," — by and large, most of you would stick
with me. And if you couldn't understand how it
"SOMETHING TO REMEMBER" (3)
could be a display of power on His part, at
least you'd be impressed by the fact it was a display
of His compassion - - for when He made blind people
see.... He made blind people see because He loved them.
- when He made lame people walk He made lame people
walk because He loved them
Now, when it comes this morning to say to you, "I'm going to talk about the Trans-
figuration" - - come now, are you turned off already? Transfiguration . . . .the Ascen-
sion , the Resurrection - - these sometimes throw us, they are beyond our under-
standing. But they did happen. And you can't ignore it. What I've read for you
this morning appears in three of the Gospels almost word for word. What I read
for you this morning dominates the passages of the fourth Gospel, as Jesus Christ
is revealed to us. If you think I'm putting you on a bit, be patient with me now
while I share it with you in this manner:
. . . Suppose Pastor David took a group of our young people,
or older people, young adults — I don't care, and he said to
Gary Lee Pritchett, our Resident Caretaker at Hallowood,
"Now, about ten o'clock at night I'm going to take a limited
number of these people with me to the top of Sugar loaf Mountain,
and you make the necessary arrangements . I 'm going to expose
them to a tremendous religious experience" . . . and then they
come down off the mountain, say five hours later, and somebody
runs to Gary Lee Pritchett, our Resident-Caretaker-at-Hallowood,
and says, "I saw Jesus Christ ! - - I saw Moses !- - I saw Elijah !
I heard a voice from Heaven!"
...you'd squirm. Some of you might even
arrange for a meeting with the Church Council,
and say. What's going on up there? These
people saying they see faces, they hear voices,
they see Jesus Christ! - - what's going on
Now when I put it to you in that light, can you see now why some people shy
away from dealing with the Transfiguration, because that's exactly what did happen !
And it's a matter of Scriptural record. There were eye-witnesses — Peter, James
and John — and they talked about it so much that when Matthew wrote his Gospel he
incorporated it . . . when Mark wrote his Gospel, he put it in . . . and when Luke
wrote his Gospel, he made room for it.
"SOMETHING TO REMEMBER" (4)
Now I told you I want to talk to you about two things — the thing that
happened . . . and why I think it happened. What happened, by this time you ought
to be familiar with it, you've heard it read twice. I've referred to it in one
way or another up to this very point - - - Jesus with three very close friends
spent time apart from everybody else, up on a mountain, they withdrew, in a re-
treat. And a profound experience takes place! — over and above anything they
had ever known, in which the voice of God was heard, the divine imprimatur was
placed on Jesus Christ, and Peter, James and John said, "We saw a person who had
been dead for a thousand years — Moses ... we saw a person who had been dead
for 800 years — Elijah. And we observed them talking with Jesus. Then when it
was over, our eyes were focused on Jesus Christ, and Him alone."
- - now that's what happened. I would discourage you
with all my soul from ignoring it. Accept it. You may not
be able to fully understand it, but you ignore it to the peril
of your soul . . .
It was an extraordinary thing, and there are some things extraordinary that cannot
be explained. You simply accept the fact that the experience was a valid one
for those who shared it.
Now don't be too troubled by that. You may have had a moment in your life,
a shining moment, an extraordinary moment, when something became crystal clear to
you, and your life has never again been the same. You have been stabilized be-
cause of it, you have been inspired because of it, and you've lifted yourself
above the mundane features of this world. It had happened.
I know that some of you at some moment in your life have had someone look
into your eyes, and that person has allowed you to believe that that person trusts
you, that that person respects you, that that person expects from you certain
things that they are absolutely certain you can deliver, that you're capable of
I've never hesitated to be transparent to you. You mean much to me, this
parish, this Saint Luke congregation. But the day I left the first parish that
God gave me to serve, unashamedly I said to them, "You will never know what you
have done for me - - you were the first people ever to call me 'Pastor.'" And
when that word 'Pastor' is spoken, it involves respect and trust. It means that
they make you, to all intents and purposes, the guardian of their souls. And
every now and then I need to remind myself of those shining moments when people
said 'Pastor.' Do you understand what I mean?
"SOMETHING TO REI-IEMBER" (5)
Don't think that I am sentimental, but there are some things that need to
be said. I hope to the day I die my soul will be shaken when I hear two people —
as no other two people in the world can do it — say "Pop." We need these moments,
these shining moments, when it occurs to us, and lifts us up and above and beyond
the way we deal with things normally. And that's what happened on the Mount of the
Transfiguration - - I'll put it for you this way . . .
...they had been with Jesus for some time, it was a crisis
in mid-career, I think, to use professional terminology of
our day - - it might even have been a mid-life crisis, if
one can be so bold as to apply that to Jesus. Things had
been going along fairly well, but now some of the disciples
discovered that Jesus was talking about things yet to come,
and they were quite formidable - - - talking about going up
to Jerusalem, talking about a cross, talking about a terrible
death ... so much so that they couldn't understand it, that's
the way He was talking
Now, straight in the middle of the ball-bat. He says, "Peter, James and John, you
come with me. We;re going up in the mountain, just to be apart" And while they
were there something happened. I'll tell you what I think it was . . .
....they had been tripping along with Jesus now for some
time, maybe they'd almost had a casual relationship —
it was routine - - always saying the right thing, always
doing the right thing, always allowing God to flow through
His life - - maybe they were losing their perspective of
all of this. . . .
You know what happens every now and then in our routine relationships — God allows
us a time when we're jolted by something in order to see something in proper focus
....I think that's the way it was on the Mount of the Transfiguration. They just
didn't dare get used to Jesus as just being another teacher, as just being another
preacher, as just being a wonderful friend, as just being another in a series of
miracle-workers that the world had seen ... it was incumbent upon them that they
now see Him in clear and sharp focus as very God of very God. And that's what hap-
pened in this Transfiguration experience. . . . the voice from Heaven . . .
— and please — don't press me too hard, and don't you press
this thing too hard, but every now and then we have to appre-
ciate Scriptural truth from a purely human perspective....
Which leads me to say to you that when Jesus took on our flesh, when Jesus
became human. He took on all the limitations of the flesh which is my way of
"SOMETHING TO REMEMBER" (6)
became human. He took on all the limitations of the flesh which is my way of
saying to you, Jesus was human too - - He was without sin, but He was human. And
who knows but what at this time, mid-career, mid-crisis, crisis in mid-life — He
needed to be reassured of who He was, of what He was meant to do. Any number of
people have an identity crisis, and when that happens they need to be reminded of
who they are, and what they're meant to do.
That pathetic moment in "Death of a Salesman" when Willy Loman's sons stand
with their mother when they put Willy's body down into the grave. And one of them
says, "What a pity "(or words to that effect) " he never really knew who
he was, and that's why he lived such a pathetic life, he never really knew who he
was." We need to be reassured of who we are, and what we're meant to do, and that's
what happened on the Mount of the Transfiguration - - God gets into the act, and —
"Jesus, if it's reassurance that you need — here, take a look at Moses, take a
look at Elijah Moses and Elijah — you talk to Jesus. You confirm it. Tell
him it's worth it. Tell him how I never forsook you — tell him how I used you!
Go ahead, Moses! — go ahead, Elijah! — tell him!"
....and then the voice from Heaven itself, the very voice of God,
unmistakably, "This is my beloved son — Jesus, you're mine. And
since you're mine I have work for you to do, and I will never
leave you, I will never forsake you, I will always be with you!"
....and it happened in the presence of Peter, James and John.
And why do you suppose it happened in the presence of Peter, James and John?
— they needed this kind of recognition of Jesus. And from a purely human perspec-
tive be careful, now, I'm skating on thin ice, who knows but what, as Jesus
traveled closer and closer to Calvary, He might stand in need of Peter, James and
John saying to Him, "But, Jesus, remember — we were with you when that vision
splendid came Jesus, remember, we heard that voice from Heaven we know who
you are, we know what you're meant to do!"
There are those of us who have given thanks to God for people who have come
to us and said, "We know who you are, and we know what you're meant to do, and to
be." And every one of us needs those moments, those shining moments, when it be-
came crystal clear to us. So I look upon the Transfiguration. We all need the
moment splendid, the shining moment, that stabilizes us when the pressures become
great and the temptation to be less than what we're meant to be.
Why do you suppose we make as much of Confirmation as we do in Saint Luke?
We have them make banners, we have them choose a Confirmation Hymn, we have them
"SOMETHING TO REMEMBER" (7)
choose a Confirmation Verse — deliberately we've adapted the Confirmation Service
to make it as personal as we possibly can - - where a person comes up to the altar,
walks up to the very shadow of the altar itself, and is addressed with this question:
"Do you love the Lord Jesus, and do you promise to serve Him through His Holy Church?"
....and then that moment when only one voice is heard - - why do you suppose we do
it that way? — to provide them, in days to come, the memory of a shining moment,
when they did say that they did believe.
I try not to forget my Ordination Day, I try to remember it specifically —
a shining moment when holy hands were placed on my head and I was named a Minister
of the Word and Sacrament. We need to recall those shining moments.
I smile sometimes to myself when I do it, because I have no intent of running
up a photographer's bill - - but there's one photograph that I insist on when a wed-
ding takes place. I don't even ask the bride and groom if it's alright, I ask the
photographer, "Take this shot, will you plwase" - - they're kneeling, they're kneel-
ing before an altar, and a hand in blessing is over them. Hopefully, you see, some
day in the future they might look back and remember that shining moment when nobly
promises were made and commitments were made, and in the name not only of themselves,
but in the name of Jesus Christ.
Human as we are, we all need to remember some shining moment, as we experienced
it somewhere, some place, some thing, and with someone. You need to hear this again..
she was a member of this congregation, and like as not I think of it especially
on this Sunday because it was on a Sunday night that it happened. He'd been home on
leave — he was flying back to his post. Somewhere over Virginia a terrible thunder-
storm, an electrical storm — they all crashed to their death. In the letter that
she wrote me, up to that time, she said — "It was as though we were reaching for the
stars, we had it made. Pastor . . . and then my world fell apart."
....then she went on to tell me what she did - - a letter that came
to me years after the incident. "I had somebody take care of my little brood.
Pastor, and then off I went. I went back to the place where he proposed to me...
I went back to the place where we were married — ,1 went back to the place where our
first child was born and baptized . . " What was she doing? — she was recalling
shining moments — recalling exceedingly precious experiences over and above the or-
dinary that could constitute a vision splendid. The amazing thing is that you and
I are capable of comprehending a vision splendid and therein lies our hope
as human beings. Without it, we become less than human.
...this I most certainly believe
* * A
(Transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Second Sunday in Lent March 18, 1984
"JESUS: ON JESUS" ~ "TO SEEK THE LOST"
GRA.CE, Mercy and Peace from God
our Father and from His Son Jesus
Christ, our Blessed Lord. Amen.
The 1984 Lenten series of sermons being preached from the Saint Luke pulpit has
the general theme — "Who Are You, Jesus," and for the most part we're centering on
what Jesus has to say about Himself.
Who are you? How do you know who and what a person really is? Some people
build a wall around themselves, some people erect a veil of privacy and defy us to
tear it down or to invade it. They much prefer to be like that. It is not always
easy to know who and what a person really is.
But we attempt to find out. And in our attempt to find out \<re may do several
things: we may ask the person directly — Who are you? - - or we may give the person
a chance in a group setting to speak regarding himself or herself. It's a salutary
thing for a person to try to articulate and to see himself as he uses words to des-
cribe himself. Counselors, analysts, psychologists, psychiatrists — very properly
and very wisely do this sort of thing when, in a session, whether it's group or one-
to-one, they allow a person to speak in self-identif ication. And there comes a time
when it's very important that that should be done.
Now when it's done, I'll grant you there is always a risk. The picture that I
may paint of myself could be as I actually am or as I would like to be, or as I would
want you to perceive me, and there is always the risk . . . and the picture then some-
times could be fact or it could be fantasy, and it could be blurred, less than true.
Who are you? It's important that we allow people to answer for themselves. And Jesus
on more than one occasion did that very thing. That's why you have a whole series of
sermons during the Lenten season this year: "Jesus: On Jesus" — the "I AM — " sayings
I would also go to people who have known someone if I wanted to know what a person
is really like, I'd go to his friends. Now, you've known this person for quite a while,
presumably he's laid his soul bare to you as he may not have done to other people - -
"Tell me, what do you think this person is like?" so, friends could be helpful.
"TO SEEK THE LOST" -2
— and would you believe it, one's enemies could also be helpful.
How do people who are not kindly disposed toward me see me? They,
too, could provide an insight....
And then there's something else: if you really want to know what a person is like,
you may place some value on his words and the words of other people, but the acid
test comes in what a person does . Let it be said repeatedly — a person is as a
person does. Let me see how that person performs, let me see how that person
functions. So today it's the most natural thing in the world that we would take a
look at Jesus Christ — in the way He saw Himself functioning, and what He honestly
believed He was meant to do.
Incidentally, the answers to all these questions that I've proposed to you as
the sources to which we'd go mesh together beautifully in the case of Jesus Christ.
Jesus: on Jesus — what did He say of Himself? Here's the text, the 10th verse of
the 19th chapter of the Gospel according to Luke — "Jesus: on Jesus" —
. . . The Son of man is come to seek and to
save the lost ..."
that's how He saw Himself functioning. And to that end He devoted all of His
Friends — how did you see Jesus?
...one of his friends summed it up perfectly when he said
"He was someone who went around doing good."
Enemies of Christ — How did you size Jesus up?
...that introductory verse to the 15th chapter of the Gospel
according to Luke, which is intended to be required reading
for you before you came to church this morning — that 15th
chapter of the Gospel according to Luke is one of the grand-
est chapters in the entire New Testament. For one thing, it's
a trilogy — it contains three perfectly beautiful and abso-
lutely wonderful stories that Jesus told. And in the telling
of each of those stories He's providing some measure of identi-
fication as He related magnificently to each of the three
stories that He told. Now you should know, the introductory
verse to that entire chapter gives us an idea of how He was
seen by His enemies . . .
"... Then dr ew near un to h im all the publicans and sinners
for to hear him . ~
And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, sajying. This man
receiveth sinners, and eateth with them ..."
"TO SEEK THE LOST"
It wasn't the first time He had heard that kind of talk. It wasn't the first
time that He knew people were sizing Him up like that. You remember that Monday,
the first Monday in March, when we had the all-day Bible Study for anybody who wanted
to come, on the hour - - we talked about Zacchaeus. And we dealt very earnestly with
the theme that here was Zacchaeus, ostracized, harrassed — alienated — separated
from people who didn't even want him around, who were very content in keeping him
separated ... so much so that he had to run away from the crowd, climb up a tree —
that's where they wanted him — up there! — not down there with them. But listen
to this: Love always takes the initiative. Love always takes the first step. So
Jesus Christ says to Zacchaeus, long before Zacchaeus even called him by name —
Jesus Christ says, "Zacchaeus, I see you, I found you!"
(Love takes the initiative)
"Zacchaeus, you get yourself down! — Zacchaeus, listen to me!
I'm going to go to your house for supper — we're going to
have a long talk ..."
...Love takes the initiative — Love takes the first step. Love doesn't wait for
somebody else to do it. And that's exactly what happened. And as a result, in this
case — not always! — Love doesn't always get a return! Perfectly mindful of that,
responding realistically. Love nonetheless sees it's in duty bound to take the initia-
tive . . . there's no guarantee that there will be a return. But in this case there
was, handsomely so. Zacchaeus turned around completely in his life.
Now why do I tell you this? Because there were people who saw all this happening
and they murmured, and said, "He's gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner ! "
They were perfectly content to keep that person in his isolation, to allow him to be
alienated, to allow him to be separated. But not so Jesus Christ.
Who are you, Jesus — how do you see yourself? — to what end do
you devote your energy? Why are you here? . . .
"I came to seek and to save the lost . . . "
Now in this magnificent 15th chapter of the Gospel according to Luke there are
three stories. One, the story of a man who was a shepherd, he had 100 sheep.... and
as anyone who has traveled in that part of the world knows, he brings the sheep
back at night to their shelter. It can be a man-made shelter, or it can be a natu-
ral enclosure, a rock that's large enough to encompass a flock of sheep. And as the
shepherd brings them at night to bed them in, whether he calls them by name or by
number - - "95 96. . . .97. . . .98. . . .99 . . . one is missing. And according to that
marvelous interpretation of the Good Shepherd with which Jesus Christ identified
Himself, at the risk of his own life - - the shepherd goes out and he seeks the lost
"TO SEEK THE LOST" -4
sheep until he finds it.
Then He tells the second story, about a woman who had ten silver coins, maybe a
necklace, maybe a bracelet what a marvelous story could be told as to how she
got them and to why they were dear and precious to her. But one day she discovers
one is lost. She panics. And she has only one thing in mind: the lost should be
found. And when she finds it she calls in the whole neighborhood and says, "Rejoice
with me, for what I have lost I have now found!"
Now follow me carefully the first story: one-out-of-a-hundred
- - the second story: one-out-of-ten
- - now the third story: one-out-of-two
There was a man who had two sons, and one became very willful and said, "I can't stand
it here any longer! I want to do my own thing! I want to be me! - - - and he sepa-
rated himself, deliberately, willfully, and goes out into the far country and gets
lost. And then Jesus tells how the old man never gave up on him . . . one day he
comes back, and there's singing and there's joy and there's merriment, and there's
feasting . . . and the old man says, "This one who was lost is found!"
and Jesus says, that's the way it is in Heaven. Jesus said, "I
have come to seek and to save the lost - - that means I have come to
Now look at it very freely and very frankly: how is anyone rescued? It isn't
because the victim comes from his miserable situation to somebody else. The victim
is rescued only when the person is in a position to do the saving, goes from where
he is to where the victim is! So Jesus Christ comes to us.
That's the meaning of the Incarnation. I need giants in my life — we all need
giants in our lives. Pope John 23rd became a giant for me. I need to tell you three
things about him. I think I still have hanging outside what had been my office on
the main floor of the Christian Education Building a picture of Pope John 23rd and
somebody else ~ he's the one with the big Italian face and the round shoulders.
Three things from that man that have cast a shadow benignly upon my life —
— Pope John the 23rd is the one who's supposed to have said — good
advice for anybody who works with people — "You see a great deal;
you correct as much as you can; and you forget as much as you can."
The second thing in the life of Pope John the 23rd: it was diagnosed: incurable
cancer, he was going to die, he knew he was going to die. Right after his death
they found a note that he had written on his desk — something that he had written.
"TO SEEK THE LOST " -5
I'd be very happy if I could tell you that it was a quotation from Scripture, but it
wasn't ... but something that I think Scripture could have inspired and equally
sublime - - God forgive me when I say it — equally sublime as a passage of Scripture
_ a very simple thing. In anticipation of death he had written:
"My bags are packed."
...which was simply his way of saying. "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit ~
Now the third thing. The first Christmas when he was Holy Father he left his
residence in the Vatican and he went outside the walls of the Vatican -- on Christmas
Day in the morning .... to visit a prison. And as he moved from one cell block to
another he was heard to say, "You could not come to me where I was - - so I have come
to you" what is that but the sublime meaning of the Incarnation! In our sinful-
ness, in our wickedness, in our lostness we cannot go to God.... so God comes to us.
And if Pope John 23rd wanted to be absolutely honest he could have said, "Maybe you
would not have come to me" ... and there are people like that, who have no inten-
tion whatsoever to either seek out the good or respond to the good. But nonetheless
that doesn't keep the good from going to the bad.
I wish I had time to talk with you about the way people become lost, and separa-
ted, and isolated. Very hurriedly - - some like the lost sheep, who simply strayed
away, not paying much attention to where it was going and got to where it was inadver-
tantly. That's the way some people stray, and get lost...
...some people like that lost coin get lost due to no circumstances
of their own whatsoever. Something happens, and they get isolated,
and separated, and when is a thing lost? - - it's lost when it's our
of relationship, when it's somewhere where it doesn't belong and has
value only when it is where it belongs, an environment where its full
potential can develop - - - a diamond in the gutter. .. .really now, it
has little value as long as it's in the gutter, but
only where it ' s meant to be do we look upon it as some-
thing prized and precious.
But the thing that you've got to remember, which is exceedingly difficult for some
of us, that when a thing or a person is lost, it's lost, and it doesn't do much good
for people to sit in judgment when the thing that needs most to be done is to minis-
ter to the person that's lost.
I would never go to a physician, if I had an accident, who as soon as the physi-
cian saw me, started to give me a lecture — blame me for having been foolish enough.
"TO SEEK THE LOST" -6
or stupid enough, to have found myself in a situation where I could become injured.
The thing I want most is for him to minister to me in the situation in which I find
myself. Which is simply my way of saying to you, when a person is lost — whether
a person becomes lost because like the sheep it simply strayed away .... or like
a willful goat.... or like one of the two sons who deliberately chose to get lost
when a person is lost, he's lost. And the effect is the same.
To that end Jesus came to people not to condemn, not to condone their stupidity
or folly, but to show compassion. "Who are you, Jesus?" - -
- - "I am someone who came to seek and to save the lost."
. . . .and every single one of us runs the risk of
becoming lost. And the happy thought is, there's
a God who with undiscourageable love, like the
Hound of Heaven, pursues us, and He keeps at it
until we respond. This I most certainly believe.
(This sermon transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Rajnuond Shaheen
The Third Sunday in Lent
March 25, 1984
GOD, We make so little time to do this
sort of thing, to give some measure of
undivided attention to the interpreta-
tion of Your Word. That we should make
the most of it now, enlighten us by
Your Holy Spirit. In the Name of Jesus
Christ, who when He came, came preaching.
" THROUGH AN OPEN DOOR"
(John 10: 1-9)
If I were an artist and I had been commissioned to paint a picture of the
disciples, I know exactly how I would picture them in a way that I have never seen
them pictured on anyone's canvas. I'd have them pictured with puzzled looks on
their faces - - for surely it happened quite frequently — every now and then when
Jesus was speaking ... I can see them, with that look on their faces indicating
they can't possibly understand what He was trying to say. It happened so often.
Listen for it now as this passage of Scripture is read:
" ' ♦ • Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that
entereth not by the door into the sheepfold,
but climbeth up some other way, the same is
a thief and a robber . . "
(this is Jesus talking now, and His disciples
are close by — they're hearing everything
that He's saying)
" . . But he that entereth in by the door is the
shepherd of the sheep.
To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear
his voice; and he calleth his own sheep by name ,
and leadeth them out.
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he
goeth before them, and the sheep follow him; for
they know his voice.
And a stranger will they not follow, but will
flee from him; for they know not the voice of
This parable spake Jesus unto them; but they
understood not what things they were which he
spake unto them. , . . "
And so presumably as He stands there looking at them, with this kind of look on their
faces - - "Please run that by us again, Jesus — go over that once more!". .. .which He
"THROUGH AN OPEN DOOR" (2)
So then He said to them again.
3f the sheep. ,
. . . by ;
he shall be saved.
, and find
• • •
One of the problems that Jesus had on His hands was that people would not al-
ways understand who He was. Some people wanted to make Him out that He was something
other than He was. And when some people had some idea as to who He really was, they
weren't sure that they could accept it. So very frequently Jesus as He dealt with
people had to understand just where He was — in their understanding of Him..... so
much so, on one occasion He pressed the disciples to the point and He said,
"what are people saying about me? Who do they
think I am?"
...and then, looking them directly in the eyes —
"And who do you say that I am? How well am I being received?"
No one wants to be misunderstood, honestly now! And some of us, in our desire
to be fully understood are quite willing to he very transparent to other people, as
open as we can possibly be. Jesus Christ really serves little If any purpose in our
life if we really don't reach the point where we know who He is. And that's exactly
why this series of sermons is, being preached from the Saint Luke pulpit this Lenten-
tide of 1984 on the general theme of "Who Are You, Jesus?" And who can answer better
than He? And on more than one occasion, even before people asked Him, He volunteered
and told us who He is. Who are you, Jesus? - - the question remains the same, but
the answers that He gave are not always the same. This morning we're dealing with
an answer that's entirely different than the answer that you'll get next week, and
the answer we got last Sunday, and the Sunday before that. Today in the story that
He told. He said, "You want to know who I am? — I am the doori"
You should know that years ago when I had the good fortune to go to the Holy
Land for the first time I made up my mind that there is one thing in particular that
I didn't want to miss, that of all the things that I could see, this most certainly
would be at the top of my list. And I might surprise you
— it wasn't especially to go to the Garden of Gethsemane,
as much as I wanted to be there, to identify with the
prayer life of Jesus, and His agony
— it wasn't that I felt the need to go to Bethlehem,
where He was born
"THROUGH AN OPEN DOOR" (3)
— it wasn't that I couldn't think of leaving the Holy
Land without staying for a little while in the
Garden of the Resurrection, important as that would
be for me
But this is what I wanted to see, I think more than anything else — it was related
to the first passage of Scripture that I ever memorized:
"The Lord is my shepherd . ♦ . "
— I wanted to see a Palestinian shepherd, that's what I wanted to see, and with a
flock of sheep.
I was doubly blessed. I got not only to see the shepherd and his sheep but
I also saw in a village the large enclosure where the shepherds would bring their
sheep at night-fall. It was like a community effort, more than one shepherd would
use it. But each shepherd knew his own sheep by name, so when it came time to go,
he could sort them out.
And then I also had this good fortune — you see, they used a communal shel-
ter only in the severe months of the year. But when the weather was more ideal —
the late spring, summer, early fall — the shepherd had his flocks out in the hill-
side, far removed from the village. So when it came time to bed them down at night,
to provide them with shelter and security, he'd look for some natural setting, it
was an enclosure underneath a huge rock, and this overhang would provide the very
shelter that they needed at night. And like as not there was a very narrow entrance-
way, naturally formed, about as high as the height of an average sheep.
But the sheep had to be protected at night. I'm sorry to have to tell you
that there were not all good shepherds. There were some who were wicked and evil,
and they'd steal the sheep that belonged to another shepherd, especially at night.
And then the sheep had to be protected from the animals that were prowling under
cover of darkness. So there had to be some kind of a door, and there was no natural
door for this enclosure, this over-hang of a rock. So Jesus said — remember now,
remember what the shepherd would do, and they were familiar with that - - the shepherd
would lie himself down in that entrance-way, and he himself would constitute the door!
No one got in except by him, no one went out except by him.
Now Jesus was telling them this story in order to get His point across that He
wanted to make: that He is the one by which people find security, shelter, protection
against all the ills of a wicked world . He even went so far as to allow them to be-
lieve, and purposely so, that He was the door-way to God — that no one ever came to
God except as they came through Him.
'THROUGH AN OPEN DOOR" (4)
Now let's talk about doors for a minute. Doors have always fascinated me.
The local newspaper in the time in which I grew up ran a series of photographic
studies on doors. The one they featured was at that very beautiful brick house, a
modified sort of mansion, which became almost the center of that little town, at
Broad Street and Loyalsock Avenue. I'm sorry to tell you, things are never as they
once were. When I go back now that house is no longer there, it's been dismantled —
a modern branch bank is there, with its driveway window, its automatic teller. Some
of us lament it — things never are as once they were, and we need to brace ourselves
when we go back home . . . never quite the same.
But I do remember that house as it once was, with its very beautiful door —
impressive — and all that surrounded it to make the entrance a very graceful way.
Doors have always fascinated me. There are all kinds of doors, you know —
little doors.... big doors. ,. .light doors - heavy doors. .. .doors made out of
wood, doors made out of bronze, doors made out of plastic, doors made out of
fiber-glass doors that open and close on conventional hinges, doors that
open and close like an accordian as they fold doors that slide into walls,
doors which, with the press of a button by remote control will roll up into
the celling of a garage. ....
But they all serve the same function. Doors may differ in their size and their quality,
in the material. But the function and the purpose of a door remains, to keep some-
thing on the outside from entering, and to protect what's on the inside from what's
on the outside. They all serve a purpose.
And that door also serves as something that separates. The only way I can get
on the inside is to go through that door. The only way I go to the outside is to go
from where I am through that door into an outside world.
The child in the heart of the man remains, you know that, of course you do,
and the older you become the more real that is. The child in me recalls how when I
was a youngster my dad would take me to town to be outfitted, once a year, for my
clothing. It might be either springtime or it might be done in the fall of the year
when we got ready for school. And I remember especially when I had my first pair of
long trousers. I got that suit for my confirmation, a teenager. We went to town.
In that town of maybe 20 - 30 thousand at that time, as every town had, there
was a square — Market Square, if you please. There were three or four clothing stores
in that Market Square. One was owned and operated by the Steam Brothers, Bill and
•THROUGH AN OPEN DOOR" (5)
Abe. Either one of them, Bill or Abe, would be standing on the sidewalk, waiting for
prospective customers to go by, and as my dad and I would walk by - - I can still see
how Abe (or Bill) came out, with the glad-hand and the smile, and before we knew it,
we were inside the store! - - because he knew he had something on the inside that he
believed we ought to have. And there are always people beckoning us in their direc-
tion to cross the threshold of their place, because they think they have something and
that we ought to have.
The limited number of times that I go to a shopping mall, or to a business dis-
trict, I'm quite intrigued by the way people make their entrance-ways attractive —
because "there's something on the inside that we want you to have."
Did it ever occur to you how different your life has become because of the
doors you've entered? ... .or the places you seek out because you want to pass a parti-
cular door? There are some doors you seek out and to which you want to go because
they will give you momentary pleasure — temporary satisfaction — no question about
it! And you can't wait until you get there....
....there are some doors, thank God, through which you enter because
once you enter them your life can never again be the same because
Improvement is setting in
I would not want to return to this place again if I did not honestly believe that
there are some of you who have found a difference for good set in your life because
you entered the doors that lead to Saint Luke Church. This 1 most certainly believe.
Jesus said, "I am the door. By me if any man enter, and go out . . . "
We don't always think about that, do we? Doors lead in doors lead out. Jesus
knows what He wants us to find on the inside, where He is. But He's also giving us
to understand that once He's had us for a little while, and when we turn to go out
and to face the world — which we have to face — you know very well that you can't
stay here forever, the time comes when you have to leave, and you go! When you go
you ought to go differently because of what you've received here. And that should
strengthen you to persevere with patience the course that you have to run beyond
One of the finest compliments I ever heard paid the people of this parish was
paid quite indirectly. A woman became a member of this congregation — she was sepa-
rated from the church for some time, and then she came back within the Body of Believ-
ers. And she said to me, "You know what, Pastor — my family says that since I have
been coming to Saint Luke Church I am fit to live with at home." What we receive
here we receive in vain if it doesn't spill over on the outside once we go through
"THROUGH AN OPEN DOOR" (6)
Jesus said: " I am the way, the truth and the life"
Jesus said: " No one comes unto the father but by me. "
...and then some of us maintain, as Scripture says:
" There is no name under Heaven whereby we can be saved "
because once we've come to Jesus, once we've seen Him as the door that leads
into life and salvation and peace and pardon — and even to God Himself — there's
no other door that we want to enter, there's no other path that we want to take.
And that just because Jesus delivers . He was always talking about what was inside
the Kingdom, what was inside the door He wanted us to use. Not everybody delivers
once they get us on the inside.
I have been spending some time these days looking back over the last 14 - 15
years in particular. One incident I happen to recall was the day we had "Saint Luke
Night At The Circus" - - we rolled down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway — 600 strong,
filling 20 buses. You can never guess why I was excited about going to the circus -
because - let me tell you. I had read about old P.T. Barnum, delightful character that
he was — always finding ways to make another dollar.
....he discovered that one of his tents where a side-show
was going on, people came and were completely fascinated
by what they were seeing, and they just stayed, longer than
he thought they ought to stay, and he wasn't selling any more
tickets — and that's where he made his money — the more
tickets he sold the more money he made ... so he had to devise
some way to get those people out of that tent, so they wouldn't
stay there as long, with all the crowds milling on the outside.
Clever chap that he was, he put up a sign so that all could see it after they
were inside the tent a little while — the sign that simply said:
THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS
P. T. Barnum' s successors in the circus Business still have that sign somewhere under
the big top.
... .now what happened was: these poor benighted people,
not knowing what the word meant, thought that on the outside
was something far more fascinating than they had already seen,
only to discover as they followed THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS —
they were outside! — and nothing there!
"THROUGH AN OPEN DOOR" (7)
Not so this Jesus! - - who Is always saying: "This way — follow Me!
- - I am the way, and Inside m^ door ..."
....He was always talking about what was inside.
There are two worlds, you know, as far as Jesus is concerned — a world outside
the Kingdom and a world inside the Kingdom, and He spent all of His energies talking
about all the wonderful things they would find inside the door to His Kingdom. He
didn't spend much time talking about what was outside — you need to hear this:
...my mentor in the faith, whose lengthened shadow was cast benignly
upon me throughout my formative years, even after I became your Pastor,
the man who performed our wedding ceremony and the man who baptized our
two boys, the man who followed me throughout the years - - Harvey Daniel
Hoover — a man who taught me what a wonderful thing it is to be a pastor....
— once related to me ... . when he was supplying a church
in Chicago, a nearby undertaker came and said, "We have this woman
to bury. Nobody is making arrangements, but I can't think of
having this person buried without a preacher conducting the service...
Dr. Hoover, every inch a pastor, made himself available, and he said,
"But can you tell me a little bit about her?"
"Well," the undertaker said, "You look as though you can understand
me - - " (Hoover was quite young in those days).... he said, "She
was a woman of the streets, that's what she was, that's the kind of
a life she lived , . . you still want to conduct the service?"
And then Dr. Hoover had to decide for himself, what would he say at
that service? - - and momentarily , only momentarily, he was tempted
to preach about the wrath of God, the torment of the damned, and
what Hell is like. And then he caught himself up short - - -
"Why should I preach to these people who might come to
that service (he presumed that some of her friends, her
customers? — other women of the streets, they might come)
and so he said to himself — "Why should I preach to them about Hell?
They live in it! They already know about Hell!"
but Jesus-fashion, Harvey Daniel Hoover spoke about the love of God, the kindness
of God, the possibility of Heaven. That's what Jesus was always doing while He was
here, not spending His energies telling about the evil that they'd already tasted
"THROUGH AN OPEN DOOR" (8)
But with a beckoning look - - and a "C'mon this way! — there's something better
inside My Kingdom ..."
Now remember: a door divides, a door separates.
— you are either on the inside or the outside.
Where are you?
I know where you could be . . . and that's a happy thought!
(This sermon transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Fourth Sunday in Lent
April 1, 1984
GRACE, Mercy and Peace from God
our Father and from His Son Jesus
Christ, our Blessed Lord. Amen.
WHO ARE YOU, JESUS; "BREAD OF LIFE"
Today's sermon is the next-to-the-last in the series on the general theme: Who
Are You, Jesus? The text that you are about to hear is expressed repeatedly in the
6th chapter of the Gospel according to John. This now is the way the 35th verse
" . . and Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life."
Who are you, Jesus? The question remains the same. The answer may vary, for He was
many things — basically, Savior of all mankind, but who has come to us.
— who are you, Jesus? "I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life
— who are you, Jesus? "I am the door "
— who are you, Jesus? "I am the light of the world"
— who are you, Jesus? "I am the good shepherd "
— who are you, Jesus? "I am the vine"
— who are you, Jesus? " I am the bread of life"
It's a far cry from when Jesus spoke those words on a Galilean hill-top not far
from the Lake of Galilee to a small town on the banks of the Susquehanna River in
north central Pennsylvania. We need to talk about both incidents. But first, the
one farthest away and longest ago .
Jesus had performed a miracle, the miracle that comes quickest to mind to any
Sunday School youngster. Ask him to name the miracles performed by Jesus and in all
likelihood the Feeding of the Five Thousand will be the first one that he might name.
Jesus had done that, apparently with the snap of the fingers, so it would seem to some
people - - five thousand people were fed out of a small supply of bread and fishes
that had been handed to Him. The people were absolutely astounded — who wouldn't
have been! And they responded exactly the way you would have responded — poor,
hungry as they were, they said to themselves: "We've got something going for us! —
we hadn't better let this fellow get away!" - - they made up their minds they'd bring
pressure to bear and they'd name him their King. Why not? They would be fed —
and there would always be bread on the table — man's basic need.
Jesus was greatly concerned. Despite the popularity, knowing human nature as
" BREAD OF LIFE " (2)
He does. He was fully aware of the fact that they were coming to Him for the wrong
reason. They wanted their stomachs to be filled. His greater concern was for
their souls. He's the same one who said, "Man does not live by bread alone"... and
so while He did feed them bread. He had to get them to shift gears and to think of
the bread that does not perish: He had to get them to think in terms of the diet of
the soul. He had to get them to think in terms of the ingredients that would pro-
vide healthy fare for their minds and their hearts - -
" . . for as a man thinketh, so he becomes ..."
and " . . out of the heart are the issues of life ..."
So He had to get away from them. It was too much for Him. Their failure to under-
stand Him as He really is, this intense desire on their part to elevate Him, to
to exalt Him, just because He put food on their tables.
So after a little while they caught up with Him, He couldn't escape them for-
ever. And then He had to confront them. In no uncertain way He had to give them to
understand that they were following Him for the wrong reason. And with nary a crumb
in His hands He said these words: "I am the bread of life."
....you want bread? - - I dare you to think in these terms
"I am the bread of life."
Now let's try to understand it. This metaphor, you see, gets in our way because
we've dealt with it so often. And if we don't take heed we won't get beyond the
imagery. What do the words really mean? — six- monosyllable' words -^- what do they
mean: "I am the bread of life." ?
Ask the question: What is bread? Bread is absolutely basic. Without bread,
meaning food, we cannot live. I remember it as though it were yesterday, seeing
that baby boy brought to his mother, now to see him for the first time since he had
been delivered and he goes so naturally and so instinctively to the breast that
she bares. From the day that we're born we reach out for food.
Making hospital calls this past week - - few in number they may be that I make
these past days, I still recall vividly that hospital bed with all the gadgetry
'round about it . . . feeding a patient, even though the patient may be terminally
ill and even though the patient may be comatose, not conscious at all, there are
those who make decisions that this person needs to be sustained, to be fed, until
the very moment that that person may breathe his or her last. Say it again and say
it often: bread is basic. In the Middle East they refer to bread as the staff of
life — absolutely essential. We reach for it - - we reach for it from the moment
we are born, and generally speaking we crave it, all other things being equal, to
the time that we die. Without it we cannot live.
"BREAD OF LIFE" (3)
But man is more than body. Man is more than a person with a stomach. He's
a soul - - who dreams, who feels, who thinks and knows that when he dies, be-
ing put six feet in the ground is not the end - - - who day by day orders the days
of his years with the prospect of something beyond the grave. And to that end his
soul needs to be nurtured, nourished.
Now, that Pennsylvania town on the banks, of the Susquehanna River in the north
and central part of the state —- we liyed in that town before we came to you. She
lived about six houses away from where we lived. I am terribly embarrassed to tell
you, I don't remember her name. When we knew her we had reason to believe that she
was comfortably fixed. Her husband had died and left her a fair amount of money.
She lived in a very attractive house, a very solid brick house with a slate roof.
Not long after we moved here we got word that she had died. As you might sup-
pose, as you would do, I asked: and what caused her death? I can still hardly be-
lieve it — they said she died from malnutrition.
...now, next door to where we lived, just six doors away
from where she lived, was the church. And then right
across; the street from the church, was the grocery store.
She could get to that grocery store from her house in
less than a minute-and-a-half , or about that. She had
only to open the door and to call for the fine youngsters
who lived on that street - - you could trust any one of
them — she could have given them money and said, "Go
and get me this" . . . she could have lifted the receiver
and called Jimmy Shockey, the Italian store-keeper who loved
the neighborhood, and his aging father, old Pop, would trip
up the street with a basket and deliver it. It was as avail-
able as all that I
...but she died from malnutrition. Which is simply to say two things: not enough
food, and whatever it was, it wasn't the right kind .
Some decades ago we shocked the whole community when I introduced a physician
friend of mine to the service club in which I had membership. When the word got
around at the round table where I sat that he was doing something innovative and
creative -— this was 40 years ago, they'd never heard of it up there — he was
prescribing vitamins, food supplements for old people. They had never thought in
those terms. But people who live alone, who may be disinclined to eat properly,
should be guaranteed that they get the basic amount of what they ought to have....
...she didn't have to die of malnutrition - i^e made that plain to you already:
"BREAD OF LIFE" (4)
she didn't have to die from malnutrition!
And you know how sensitized we are In this day. When you are Inclined to
speak 111 of the world, remember, we are a people who say there should be bread
for the hungry. We do get Involved in soup kitchens. We do think in terms of
our surpluses and lament the fact that we can't quite get those surpluses out to
people who ought to have them. We are sensitized to the fact that bread is basic
for everybody and everybody ought to have his share. Really now, really — we
won't quite be as hard as the person who said, "If he won't work he can't eat."
We do have a concern for the hungry. Bread is basic.
I remember when I first went to Europe, when I was going to spend two weeks
in Sweden - - I had a Swedish friend teach me my basic Swedish:
" yag Sr hungrig"
...he knew very well before long I'd be hungry. I also knew that there might be
somebody who would feed me, so I learned my other Swedish:
" Tack sa mycket" . . . "Thank you very much."
When you talk about food you talk about appetite. And some people aren't eat-
ing properly because they've lost their appetite. A person goes to a physician —
you know very well how he'll probe and ask questions. You're concerned about your
physical well-being? — eventually he'll ask the question: how is your appetite?
....and he becomes concerned, of course, if you say, "I've lost my appetite," Some
people lose their appetite because they eat the wrong kind of food.
Spiritually speaking now, what's the diet for your soul? We're a very diet-con-
scious generation. Do you have substantial fare for your soul? Is the Intake of
love and peace and forgiveness sufficient to sustain you? ... or is your diet one
of envy, and jealousy, pride? You can be starved on that kind of thing. You can
form a cancer that can eat your very heart away. But a diet of peace and hope, of
forgiveness - - that's something else.
When I was a youngster at camp, we had camp for two weeks at Camp Nawakwa, senior
high kids went there. I discovered something that I noted then that I wish I could
find again in camp life - - by the end of two weeks every youngster seemed to look
much better than when he came at the beginning of the two-week period — physically,
now, as well as spiritually. And I think one reason was this: we were under a dis-
cipline — we got up at a certain hour in the morning and we went to bed at a certain
hour at night... and we ate only at prescribed times and we ate well-balanced suf-
ficient food. There was no such thing as "junk food" available at Camp Nawakwa.
"BREAD OF LIFE" (5)
The camp store was open for about fifteen minutes after lunch, and in those days gone
by, the only thing that you could spend was ten cents, and that would buy an ice cream
bar, if that's what you wanted, but that was the only kind of food that was ever
served or purchased aside from the dining room table
...in those grand and glorious — hear me out — in those grand and
glorious days when the camp truck would go out in the neighborhood
and get the greens, the beans from the surrounding farmers, and the
fresh corn, and the apple butter that was made in that part that's
the kind of diet that they had — well-balanced, strict hours, you ate
only at meal-time
And at the end of a two-week period you could tell the difference - - none of this
Oh, I must tell you about my predecessor's widow in the parish where I first
served. She was about as severe and stern as he was good and gracious. This goes
back to the days when the tramps came along the railroad. One came to her back porch
for food - - it happened so frequently in those days — she fed him.
....weeks later the same tramp came back. And as only she could do it,
recognizing him, she said, "I fed you before!"
...and all he could say was, "Yes, lady, and I got hungry again."
This is the fundamental weakness for some of us in our spiritual diet. Weeks and months
can pass before we show up for the food that we need most in order that our souls might
be nourished. You think about that.
I am also thinking that when I go to the hospital and see how they can force-feed
people in order to keep them alive. Well, we don't have any such gadgetry, spiritually
speaking. I can't force-feed you with a generous portion of love. I can't even force-
feed forgiveness into your soul. Even when the pastor raises his hands, pronounces the
Absolution, he can't force that on you. It's only as you wish it, and want it, and re-
ceive it. Now that's something to think about.
Jesus said, "I am the bread of life." What He's really saying is "Without me you
really can't live." And here and there there are some of us who take Him at His word.
And that's why we're willing to face tomorrow. He forgives yesterday. And He holds
out before us a measure of confidence so that we can face an unfolding future without
fear, even to when we breathe our very last. This I most certainly believe.
* * * *
(This sermon transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Third Sunday of Easter ■ May 6 , 1984
"FAVORITE TEXTS OF FAMOUS PERSONS:
FY ODOR DOSTOYEVSKY" (Xuke 15 : 11-32 )
GRACE, Mercy and Peace from God our
Father and from His Son Jesus Christ,
our Blessed Lordo Amen.
I am not quite certain what first comes to the minds of our two sons when, as
boys, they'd go out to be with their grandmother in the country. It could be that
they remember very quickly how Grossmudder would reach for that Savory roaster and
put in it that beef roast, surrounded with onions, potatoes and carrots, and then
bring it in due time steaming hot to the table - - maybe they remember thatoooo
...maybe they remember her homemade apple pie
But I'm reasonably certain that both of them recall with utmost of satisfaction how
Grossmudder told them stories. She had been a school teacher, you see, and she al-
ways placed a high value on those good stories that could be told, and always the
stories with a moral.
Which leads me to suggest to you, when you think of Jesus Christ, how do you
think of Him? His personality was multi-faceted, no question about that .„
— He came as a preacher — you may think of Him that wayo « . .
— He came as a miracle-worker — you think of Him that way.„.o
— He came as one to recruit people to become His leaders, to carry
on His Kingdom when He was no longer here — you think of Him as one
who gathered together His disciples . „ . . .
— you think of Him addressing throngs of people, five thousand at
one time..... you also think of Him, multi-faceted, as. sitting down
and engaging just one person in meaningful conversation as they
tarried at the well in Samaria. ..» o .
— you think of Him preaching that Sermon on the Mount that goes on
chapter after chapter in Matthew in particular. . o » .you may also think
of Him at the time, this multi-faceted personality, of never so much
as saying a single word to a person who had confronted Him and tried
to goad Him on to say something.
But what you think of Jesus, and whenever you think of Him, please make room — think
of Him as the story-teller. Again and ever so often, in order to illustrate a basic
truth. He wove it into a story „
"FAVORITE TEXTS: DOSTOYEVSKY" (2)
Everyone loves to hear a story told, no matter what our age, and the child re-
mains in the heart of the adult. Let someone begin in this way: "Now I want to tell
you a story - - "...oand figuratively speaking, that person has our attention, because
so many stories are so different, and they can be told differently. The basis for
all that you're going to hear in this sermon now is the 15th chapter of the Gospel
according to Luke, 32 verses, one entire chapter, consists of three different stories
that Jesus told. They had a common theme, but three different stories.
I need to tell you this-; each of them begins on a happy note, but in between
there is misery, there is despair, there is sadness.
In case you don't quickly recall that 15th chapter of the Gospel according to
Matthew, let me refresh your memory. It's that chapter in which He tells first the
story of a man with a hundred sheep. Now that's excitingi That's a happy note! A
hundred sheep could constitute a small fortune for a shepherd in the day of Jesus —
you think of it — a hundred sheep J That's a happy thought.
....but somewhere in the middle of that story Jesus says that the
shepherd had to spend his time and his energy going out and looking
for one that was lost....
You may say to yourself, 99% — one ought to be able to go to sleep and get a good
night's sleep with that. But Jesus was talking about a shepherd, with a shepherd's
heart, with a concern for anything that might be lost, that wasn't where it belonged,
that was out of relationship.
The second story that He told: a woman ha,d ten silyer pieces „ Let the wheels
go in your mind right now as the story is being told — where do you suppose she got
them? Can you tell us, Jesus? Did they come from one lover, two loyers? Were they
an inheritance? Tell us more, Jesus.
...alright, says Jesus, you want to hear more? She had ten .
That's a happy thought. One day she discovered one was missing,
and all of the gladness became sadness as she turned the house
upside-down looking for the one that she couldn't f indi . . . .
He told a third story „
Notice the progression, if you want to put it that way ~
— one out of a hundred
— one out of ten
And now the hioman factor: "There was a man who had two sons ..."
"FAVORITE TEXTS: DOSTOYEVSKY" (3)
And as soon as the story-teller says "two sons" you begin to deal in similarities,
and dis-similarities — cons-trasts and comparisons: — because anyone knows that members
of a household are as different from one another aa day is from night. But a happy
thought ~ he had two.
And then He tells how one of them wilfully leaves home, squanders his living in
the far country. It isn't so much that he wasted his money. It's the fact that he
severed a relationship....
...and the other son? Do I haye to tell you this? — he might just
as well have been in the far country, because he too was out of a
relationship with his father.
Now Jesus told these stories. You're not forgetting, are you, I said they began
on a happy note, they ended on a happy note - but in between — this, is Jesus, the
story-teller, the realist, who tells it as it is. He was not someone to come and gloss
over the warts, and the unfortunate, and the ugly, and the untoward. He was a realist.
He knew that He lived in a world where these things could happen o And you and I must
come to grips with that. It is absolutely possible that one always faces life at some
risk. Sooner or later we may have to discover that it never works out as well as we
had hoped. Whenever you deal with people, and the freedom of the will, you run the
risk of waste, inefficiency, misery. And ; the one word, the umbrella that embraces all
of these, is sinfulness. So Jesus told it as it was.
... a great story-teller, who said, "This is the way it is! You can
start out beautifully — in fact that's the story of Creation, that's
the story of man, that's your story, that's my story - - we begin in the
Garden of Eden, the idyllic thing, a paradise. o.. .
Life for man begins on a happy note. Even God was pleased, and He said "Enjoy
it! — Make the most of it! Don't let anything happen to it!" But something did.
Life began on a happy note. But you and I also know that it was meant to end on a
happy note. For God says, "Even though in the meantime — all of this meantime —
you may head for Hell, you were not meant for Hell." And even though the son may
run away and go into the far country, you can only run so far! For man is stamped
in the image of God, and man was made to come to himself. Man was meant to regain
his senses, not to lose it forever. That's, the story of the Prodigal Son, that mar-
velous statement, when in the far country "He came to himself"...
...which is simply one way of saying, "it occurred to him
who he was, and whose he was."
...and that relationship could be re-established. That's the way Jesus told it.
" FAVORITE TEXTS; DOSTOYEVSKY " (4)
There's a lot of Hell in between, but mankind wasn't meant to go to Hello There
is such a thing, says Jesus Christ, as restoration , as renewal , as redemption, as
reconciliation - - that's the storyl Jesus was the master story-teller. He told it
as He saw it. But He also told it as it could be^ He kept saying to us, this is
the way it is, but it doesn't have to be that way! There can be a happy ending.
Now all of this leads me to bring to your attention - - this is another in the
series of sermons on the general theme of " Favorite -Texts of .Famous Persons " and
the man to whom we pay tribute this morning, the Russian, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, botn in
1821, died sixty years later one of the greatest story-tellers of all time. And
significantly enough, his favorite Bible passage was this 15th chapter of the Gospel
according to Luke, consisting of a marvelous story that Jesus told about the prodigal
and the far country. For Dostoyevsky himself on more than one occasion had found
himself in the far country, and knew that he didn't belong there „ And many of his
novels reflect the kind of person who is. found in the far country ~ " Crime and Punish-
ment" . . . " The Idiot " " The Possessed " " The Brothers Kamarazov " the
theme is there again and ever so often; the wisdom of life and the emotions of the soul.
I should tell you this: when it came. time for him to get formal academic training
he studied engineering and the military. And then in his early 20 's he dabbled in
politics, he became enamored by some new thoughts of a political trend that came out
of France. Russia feared Western influence, and, he and about twenty others were in-
dicted, they were sentenced to die. Now hear me - - they were brought to the place
where they were stood up before the firing squad. Before the blind-folds were put
over their eyes, they could see the caskets over in the corner in which their dead
bodies would be placed. it was as traumatic as all of this. Then they were lined
up: "Ready 1" "Aim!" . » . then the Commander said, "Don't fire."
— the sentence was commuted, they w.ould not be killed,
but they'd be sent off to Siberia to prison camp.
Dostoyevsky never got over the trauma of being that close to death, or figura--
tively speaking, as, being that far into the far country. While he was in prison —
listen to this, just to show you how God wprksl - - two women, nobly intentioned,
came with Bibles in their hands and they slipped into Fyodor Dostoyevsky- s hands
surreptitiously a copy of the New Testament — and whispered, "Read it! — every
page." As soon as he had opportunity he turned the pages.. And when he came upon
some money that was secreted there he thought, this is why they said. Read every page.
But - - imprisoned as he was, it was his only reading material, and he read it with
a terrific appetite. And the chapter that meant most to him was the 15th chapter of
the Gospel according to Luke. For when he looked around and saw all the other people
" FAVORITE TEXTS; DOSTOYEVSKY " (5)
who ware imprisOneQ with him, the flotsam and the jetsum of humanity, he looked upon
them as citizens from the far country, and he led himself to believe they were not
meant to be there! He looked upon them as extraordinary people who were meant to be
When he died - - listen to this - - forty thousand people walked behind his
coffin to the church yard, so great was his influence in his day. The great story-
teller, who also told it as it was, but not without some measure of hope. He talked
about the far country but he also talked in glowing terms about home.
Now as I am about to walk away from this sacred desk I must tell you that when
I was a student in the Seminary at Gettysburg, one of my professors was Dr. Raymond
Thomas Staub, the most intellectual of all the professors that I've ever had. He was
gifted, he could take a sublime truth and clothe it in very simple terms.. As God
gives me memory, to the day I die I'll want to recall how he began a sermon on the
Prodigal Son. He began in this manner — you listen carefully, as I did —
"... My sermon this morning," said he, "consists of four points."
(remember now, he's preaching on the Prodigal Sonl
" Point Number One : Home-.
Point Number Two: Sick of Home.
Point Number Three ; Homesick.
Point Number Pour: Home. . .
Tliat's the only story worth telling — realistically, and always with a note of recon-
ciliation, redemption, the Gospel of Hope.
I wouldn't want to live another day if I couldn't believe it, totally aware of
the fact that the older I become the more I'm constrained to believe that the worst
chapter in my life could yet be written ~ that's always a possibility. Ask anyone
who's growing older. As poignant as any letter that I've read in recent days came to
me yesterday, from a grand old an who just ^ two weeks ageaceiebrated his 86th birthday.
And in that letter he pours out himself to his younger friend, "Raymond, they've taken
away the keys to my car. i can't drive any more. Raymond, i read Saint Luke MESSENGER
every week, I'd like to send you a check to help cover the cost, but i can't write a
check. Someone else has power of attorney" - - at .85 years of age! it happened, and
maybe it had to happen. But God bless him, he ends on a very positive note:
"I think of you often, and you're always in my prayers."
* * *
May the peace of God that passes all understanding
keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesuso Amen„
(transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Sftaheen
FESTIVAL OF THE CHRISTIAN HOME May 13, 19.84
"WHEN IS A HOME CHRISTIAN?"
GRACE, Mercy and Peace from God
our Father and from His Son JesTis
Christ, our Blessed Lord. Amen.
There is only one passage of Scripture that comes soonest to mind as I stand
at the sacred desk on this day which we observe as the Festival of the Christian
Home. You need to hear it read, the 2nd chapter of the Gospel according to Luke,
it begins with the 41st verse:
" Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the
feast of the Passover
And when he was twelve years old, they went up to
Jerusalem after the custom of the feast .
And when they had fulfilled the days , as they re-
turned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem;
and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
But they, supposing him to have been in the company,
went a day's journey; and they sought him among their
kinfolk and acquaintance.
And when they found him not, they turned back again
to Jerusalem, seeking him.
And it came to pass, that after three days they
found him in the temple , sitting in the modst of the
doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
And all that heard him were astonished at his under-
standing and answers.
And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his
mother said unto him. Son, why hast thou thus dealt
with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee
And he said unto them. How is it that ye sought me?
wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
And they understood not the saying which he spake
And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and
was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these
sayings in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in
favor with God and man.
I suppose if I were a modern-day psychologist I would tell you this morning
that Mary had a problem child on her hands. How else can you explain that? Here
He was at twelve years of age. He disappears out of sight, and when they find Him
after three days, even though her heart may be filled with joy that she found her
"WHEN IS A HOME CHRISTIAN?" (2)
where she did, He simply gives her an answer that she doesn't quite understand,
and she never was able to quite understand everything that He said, and everything
that He did. But she kept them in her heart — which is simply to say, she did
a great deal of praying. That's how you understand those words - -
" She pondered them in her heart . "
But I'm not a modern-day psychologist. Do I have to further introduce myself
to you? If that should be necessary, let me tell you who I am.
— I am a father.
— I am a father-in-law.
— I am a grandfather.
— I am the son of my mother and of my father.
— I am a pastor. By the grace of God I have been listening
in on human hearts for more than four decades....! have
been with people in various conditions and circumstances.
I have been with them when they are good, I have been
with them when they are bad. I have been with them when
their joy has been exceedingly precious....! have been
with them when they have been at their very, very best,
and I have been with people when I've seen them teeter-
ing on the very brink of Hell
I have not come to sit in judgment on anyone. I stand among you as a pastor, and
as a child of God.
The question that needs to be asked today, then, as I stand with you in this
way, bringing to bear all that I am: When is a home Christian? Hard to tell,
really. For when is a person Christian? Just having your name on a church roll
doesn't make you Christian. Just being baptized doesn't make you a Christian. Hard
to tell sometimes when a person is really Christian.
When is a home really Christian? - - hard to tell. One thing we know for cer-
tain, just by hanging one of those old-fashioned framed mottoes on the wall won't
do it, I could tell you that from experience, of course I can. When Winifred and
I were first married, in an antique shop we found it — they used to grace all of
those Christian homes decades ago. We placed it there in the dining room in the
three parsonages in which we have been privileged to live in our years together.
It's that antique frame within which those words are fashioned and cut out of card-
board — delicately done, I dare say — you'd be pleased with it. It reads like
"WHEN IS A HOME CHRISTIAN?" (3)
this : " Christ is the Head of This House ,
The unseen Guest at Every Meal,
The Silent Listener to Every Conversation "
And even up in the country we have had hanging for years a similar one, framed metal,
that reads , a quotation from Joshua :
" As for me and my house ,
We will serve the Lord. "
But with all the strength that I can command this morning, I have to tell you, it
takes more than beautifully framed words to make a home Christian. But there are
yard-sticks that we can use. There are measuring rods.
Yesterday we had three weddings in Saint Luke. I still hear ringing in my ears
the prayer by which we concluded the last of the three weddings, a prayer that's been
incorporated in the order that we use here in Saint Luke. Let me read it for you.
...the couple has just been married, they've made their
promises, they have been pronounced husband and wife in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Then we pray:
"0 GOD, our dwelling-place in all generations:
Look with favor upon the homes of our land; enfold
husbands and wives, parents and children, in the
bonds of your pure love; and so bless our homes,
that they may be a shelter for the defenseless, a
bulwark for the tempted, a resting-place for the
weary, and a foretaste of our eternal home in you; . . "
When I die and go to Heaven, and I believe that I will — not by any saving grace of
my own, but because of my fervent trust in Jesus Christ — I should like very much to
meet in Heaven the person who wrote these lines — a perfectly beautiful prayer, be-
cause here in these words, whoever first wrote them gives us some idea of what God
had in mind when He had the family in mind, that within a home there ought to be a
possibility of the reflection of Heaven. That's exactly from the Christian perspec-
tive — what a home is meant to be: a chance to reflect a bit of Heaven.
But I am fully aware of it, you know that I am, that any number of you could
stand right up, right now, and interrupt me. And if you wanted to, you could say
without any hesitation, and with all the anguish that we would quickly sense: — "I've
lived in hell! For what I've experienced within the confines of my family life have
been a far cry from Heaven." ... I am fully aware of that.
But I also know it wasn't meant to be that way. And I also know that I cannot
allow myself to be crippled by the fact that it happens that way more often than we
would care to accept, ever admit.
"WHEN IS A HOME CHRISTIAN?" (4)
We take for our prototype within the Christian church that home in Nazareth.
It's done so handsomely — Mary's problem child — what happened to Him?. . (and
I say that advisedly) . . what happened to Him? He went down to Nazareth — He
went home where He belonged. And He was subject to His parents.
— when is a home Christian?
a home is Christian when there ' s the kind of
authority that commands respect
And that's exactly what He had in that home in Nazareth.
You ask me what that home in Nazareth was like - - I could spend a half-hour
telling you all the things that that home in Nazareth did not have....
— it didn't have running water
— it didn't have electricity
— it didn't have a bathroom
— it didn ' t have three rooms , it didn ' t have a two-car garage
— it didn't have television, it didn't have a radio, it
didn't have a micro-wave oven
— it didn't have rugs on the floor, it didn't have a dish-
washer, it didn't have a clothes -washer
Name all the modern gadgetry, it didn't have a single one of them. But what that
home did have was a couple of people who together commanded respect in the eyes of
their children. And this child was subject to those parents.
And hear this tremendous truth - - how do you translate it — freely — reck-
lessly - - the net result of what happened in that home in Nazareth:
" And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature ,
and in favor with God and man . . . "
That's simply to say, — He grew upl And He grew up the way He was meant to grow
up. And He was able to grow because that home in Nazareth provided the environment.
What is essential for growth? You can't have growth without the proper environment.
Mary and Joseph, fortunately, were able to provide that environment — together.
No matter how you read that text: "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature - -"
— increased - - that means He matured, that means there was growth — perceptible
growth, from one level to another - "..'in favor with God, and with man."
As a Pastor, when a couple come to be married, I remind myself I'm a Pastor,
I'm not just a marrying parson, so I don't simply say,
"When do you want to be married? — let me see if
I can fit it into our calendar — fine ! You come ,
we'll perform the ceremony ..." ah, no.
"WSEN IS A HOME CHRISTIAN?" (5)
You come for an interview, as any niamber of you people right now, within the hearing
of my voice can attest. You may fault me for this — I don't have them come back
for 6, 8, 10 interviews, but I don't speak disparagingly of those who do. But I
make much of the quality of the experience of the time that we spend together in
the initial interview - - because I make certain that I ask the correct questions.
And how we may have to deal with those questions from that point on may have a dif-
ferent story.. ..but I'm in duty bound to ask those important questions, and they're
always four in number:
1 - Why do you want to be married?
2 - Why do you think your marriage will succeed?
3 - How do you feel about children?
4 - Where does the church figure in the future as far as
your relationship together is concerned?
I have little patience with people who sit down as therapists or interrogists ,
who only ask questions. I would never want to go to a physician if all he did was
ask me: "Where does it hurt? how long have you been sick? when do you think
you got this problem?" From the Christian perspective there is more than simply
asking questions. If a Christian is worth the name of what he represents, he's in
duty bound to help people get at the right answer. And I've discovered this to be
true, because any number of people, God bless them, embarrassed, awkward as they
may be in relating to the Pastor in this moment - - I don't mind telling you — I
do my best to help them come up with the right answers. So when they say, as I
ask them, "Why do you want to be married? " - - "We're in love" ... do you think
for a single minute I let them stop at that point? I say,
"What do you mean by love?"
From the Christian perspective, to love a person is to meet the need of that person,
not just to be swept off romantically.
Let it be said and said repeatedly, the big thing in marriage is not romance.
And don't you think for a single minute that I don't want Winifred to be as attrac-
tive as possible! - - don't you think for a single minute that I don't like soft
music and candlelight! I am an incurable romanticist. But the big thing is not
romance - - - fidelity J honor J „ commitment ] When through the Christian perspec-
tive you say you love, that means "I will meet your need."
I have said it on more than one occasion as two people stand in front of me —
"WHEN IS A HOME CHRISTIAN?" (6)
"... there may be days when one of you will be weak,
there may be days when one of you will be strong, but
you will never have a day when you won ' t need each other . "
The second question: Why do you think your marriage will succeed?
Listen to me now - - no matter how they come up to answer, I always have to say to
that one, "Come now, the only real answer to that question is 'We don't know.'"
None of us knows if we're going to make it. We're human. We're stained by original
sin, and marriage is not made up of two perfect people — marriage is made up of two
imperfect people. So as they answer that question I have to help them answer in the
correct way! We don't know if it's going to succeed. And then I stick with them
and I say, "But will you want it to succeed? — and will you recognize the fact that
it can't succeed on its own, you need the help of God?
. that's why we've written into our marriage service that
we use here in Saint Luke Church — you don't simply say,
"I do" .... but you answer, "I will, by God's help."
None of us can handle it by ourselves. We know that, and we need to admit it.
I can't take time to talk with you now about why I feel that the question
about children is so important , or why I feel that the relation-
ship to the church is so important , because I only know that
even marriage needs the correct environment in which to grow,
and we get that environment through the church, which is God's
I want to do something that I've never done before, I want to read for you
somebody else's sermon as I conclude this sermon. I heard it myself, and I was
deeply moved. I wasn't there, but it was televised, on the 29th day of July, 1981,
from a place, when I go to London, I always want to visit, the majestic cathedral
of St. Paul. The occasion: the wedding of a prince and a princess.
Winifred and I have a very dear friend who visited St. Paul's not too long
after this wedding. She was the only person in St. Paul's at the particular time
and she tripped merrily down the aisle, as though she were Diana the bride that
remains in every woman's heart can understand that. This is the sermon:
"Here is the stuff of which fairy tales are made, the
Prince and the Princess on their wedding day. But fairy
tales usually end at this point with the simple phrase:
'They lived happily ever after.'
this may be because fairy stories regard marriage as
"WHEN IS A HOME CHRISTIAN?" (7)
an anti-climax, after the romance of courtship. This
is not the Christian view. Our faith sees the wedding
day not as a place of arrival, but the place where the
adventure really begins ..."
(you're not forgetting — I am interposing this now —
you're not forgetting what appears in "Pages in a
Diary" in this issue of Saint Luke MESSENGER, are you?
— the words of the old rabbi: "Love is the result of
marriage, and not the cause of it." )
"... There is an ancient Christian tradition that every
bride and groom on their wedding day are regarded as a
royal couple. To this day in the marriage service of the
Eastern Orthodox Chturch crowns are held over the man and
the woman to express a conviction that as husband and wife
they are the kings and queens of Christ. As it says of
humankind in the Bible, 'Thou crownest him with glory and
honor and didst set him over the works of thy hands. "
On a wedding day is made clear that God does not in-
tend us to be puppets , but chooses to work through us , and
especially through our marriages to create the furute of
Marriage is first of all a new creation for the part-
ners themselves. As husband and wife live out their vows,
loving and cherishing one another, sharing life's splendors
and miseries, adjustments and set-backs, they will be trans-
formed in the process. A good marriage is a life, as the
poet Edwin Muir says, 'where each must ask from each what
each most wants to give , and each awaits in each what else
would never be. ' But any marriage which is turned in upon
itself, in which the bride and groom simply gaze obsessively
at one another, goes sour after a time. A marriage which
really works is one which works for others. Marriage has
both a private place and a public importance. If we solve
all our economic problems and fail to build loving families,
it would profit us nothing, because the family is the place
where the future is created, good and full of love or
" WHEN IS A HOME CHRISTIAN? " (8)
"... Those who are married and live happily ever after
the wedding day — if they persevere in the real adventure
which is the royal task of creating each other and creating
a more loving world. That is true of every man and woman
undertaking marriage. It must be especially true of this
marriage in which are placed so many hopes .
Much of the world is in the grip of hopelessness. Many
people seem to have surrendered to a fatalism about the so-
called inevitability of life — cruelty, injustice, poverty,
bigotry and war, and seem to have accepted the cynical view
of marriage itself. But all couples on their wedding day are
royal couples, and stand to the truth that we help shape this
world and are not just its victims. All of us are given the
power to make the future more in God's image and to be kings
and queens of love.
This is our prayer for Charles and Diana; May the burdens
we lay upon them be matched by the love with which we support
them in the years to come . And however long they live , may
they ever know that when they pledged themselves to each other
before the altar of God, they were surrounded and supported
not by mere spectators, but by the sincere affection and the
active power of prayer of millions of friends. Thanks be to
That's the note on which I end. Not every marriage is going to end perfectly,
but wherever there is a couple who started out, we need to offer them our love
and our prayers. And as Mary, the mother of our Lord - she never gave up praying.
This I most certainly believe.
* * *
(This sermon transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Sunday After The Ascension June 3, 1984
FAVORITE TEXTS - Thomas Carlyle
GRACE, Mercy and Peace from God
our Father and from His Son Jesus
Christ, our Blessed Lord. Amen.
I am reasonably certain that I have never done this before as I stand at this
sacred desk — give you a barrage of nothing less than the very personal questions.
Here's the first one, and presumably many of you would never dream that such a ques-
tion would be asked from a pulpit such as this at a time such as this — a very per-
sonal question: Where would you like to be buried?
— The time will come, you know, when you will die. It's a salutary thing to
give some thought as to the place where you'd like to have your body put to
I have my moments when I honestly believe that I can tell a great deal about a person
when answers are given to such questions as I am now asking, a very personal question:
Where would you like to be buried?
Another very personal question. Think now, as far back as you can remember:
What remains as a very impressionable thing from the
days of your childhood in your relationship to your
...a very, personal question. You were young once, you know. You did spend time with
your father, you did spend time with your mother. And out of that experience can you
draw upon something now that you would label exceedingly precious, so much so that it
has held you in good stead throughout your entire life-time? A personal question.
This personal question: Suppose you were going back into time now in your rela-
tionship with your parents, to that significant period which any number of our young
people have just approached — 17, 18-year bracket? High school is over, post-high
school days ahead, a brand new and different chapter about to be written. Whatever
your age now, if you've passed that period already, look back and remember if there is
anything significant that you remember . . . .and here again, hold you in good stead ?
Why do I ask you these questions? Because I believe they're important, and be-
cause, in all frankness, a person becomes according to the things that he remembers.
And blessed indeed is that person who can draw upo n other years anything that can pro-
vide a stabilizing influence for the present moment.
(Thomas Carlyle) (2)
This is another in the series of sermons based upon " Favorite Texts of Famous
Persons." The questions that I've raised can be answered out of the life of Thomas
Carlyle and be answered in a very gratifying way. Thomas Carlyle remembered, when he
looked back, when he was 17, 18 years of age, to that day when the decision was made
that he would go off to the University of Edinburgh, which was an eighty-mile walk,
or journey, from where he lived. He remembered. There's something in a man that re-
members what had been.
He remembered how, at that particular time in his life, his parents — his father
on the one side, his mother on the other side — walked with him every step of the way
for at least two or more miles as he left home to face that brand new and different
chapter in his life when presumably he would be on his own.
...a person becomes according to what he can remember...
He went back as far as he could remember the days of his childhood, and remembered some-
thing very special.
But before I tell you what that was, let me tell you how he answered the question:
Where do you want to be buried? Lord Beaconsfield at 80 years of age came to Thomas
Carlyle and said, "I am happy to tell you that you're being offered a peerage — you
will be named a member of the House of Lords, and you will also receive a stipend that
could be to your advantage for the rest of your years."
Later on in life he was told that because of his distinguished career he could
have the privilege of being buried in Westminster Abbey.
He had answered the question earlier. Where do I want to be buried? His answer was:
"I want to be buried beside my parents."
You can tell a great deal, you can draw the measure of a person, I dare say, by
the answer given to questions such as these. So strong was the influence of the parents
of Thomas Carlyle upon this man, who those in a position of authority could say had the
greatest moral influence, through the written word, of any person in his generation.
Check that our in the Encyclopedia Brittanica for yourself, check that out by any of
his biographers -- let me say it again: no one in his day had greater moral influence
through the written word than Thomas Carlyle.
Now, going back and remembering to the days of his childhood something exceedingly
precious that stabilized him as long as he lived — what was it? Two things: his
father, a Scotsman, conducting evening prayers . Secondly, his mother reading him the
Bible arid teaching him to place high value on one text iii particular . It's the 28th
(Thomas Carlyle) (3)
verse of the 8th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. It reads like this:
"... tat we know that all things work together
for good to those who love God, to those who are
called according to his purpose ..."
...his favorite text.
It would be interesting to see, when this week's MESSENGER comes into your home,
when the list of Confirmands appears on the front page, and opposite each name the Con-
firmation verse which each Confirmand had chosen. When your Pastor conducted the per-
sonal interviews at Bethany a number of weeks ago, one of the things we most certainly
dealt with as we confronted each Confirmand: What is your Confirmation verse? You see,
that was part of their assignment — to read the Bible and to find somewhere in the
Scriptures one particular verse that could be their own very special verse
— that whenever they came to receive the Holy
Communion they might recite it. . . .
— whenever they came to church and sat down
reverently, they might recite it....
— whenever they might have their evening prayers,
they might recite it
— whenever a moment of critical need would arise,
they could draw upon it .
It's gratifying to hear the answers when we put the question to them: Why did you
choose the verse that you did? I should have gone back and just checked for myself the
last ten years, to see how many youngsters chose this one: Romans 8:28:
" For we know that all things work together for
good to those who love God, who are called ac-
cording to his purpose. "
Now there's a text for you.
Come now, how does it rate with you? It was Thomas Carlyle 's favorite. Let me re-
"For we know that all things work together for
good to those who love God, to those who are
called according to his purpose."
Does that text really do anything for you? Would you be willing to stake your life on
it? Thomas Carlyle did. Presumably it could be your favorite text, if, realistically
speaking, you never had to deal with the mean and the contemptible, you never had to
deal with the down-right wicked, and the base. Such things in life do get in our way,
you know, and what good can come from them? The text does say all things work together
for good. Surely we'd have no difficulty in accepting this text if life brought us only
the pleasant and the profitable, the agreeable and the acceptable. Surely we could make
courage of such. But when you come to the debilitating and to the destructive, and to
anything and everything that's negative - - seldom if ever can you see a plus in anything
(Thomas Carlyle) (4)
like that — at least while they occur . When we have to both experience and to endure,
or better still, to try to see it from God's perspective - - which is simply to say, to
move on , to pass through, to get ready for the next chapter — trusting and honestly be-
lieving that the ultimate in life is good.
Maybe that's why, honestly now, we have so much difficulty in our prayer life. I'm
going to tell you two things now, as I have been transparent when I stand at the sacred
desk. Try not to fault me overmuch for my honesty. You'll find no difficulty with the
first thing I'm going to tell you: I can't remember when I didn't pray. Prayer has al-
ways been a very meaningful experience in my life.
But secondly: I need to tell you that while I know a certain measure of assurance
in praying, the older I become the more I have to deal with difficulties in praying. And
I think I know one reason why, and here at some risk I'll be just as honest....
...In accepting and evaluating any number of prayers that
I've offered, I have presumed to tell God the answer that I
expect, and most certainly the answer that I want — failing
to appreciate the fact that God may have something else in
With all the strength that my soul can command, let me tell you this: it's rank presumption
on the part of any of us to presume to know the mind of God. We can only trust in His ul-
timate goodness, and surely depend upon His mercy. This 8th chapter of the Epistle to the
Romans is a magnif leant chapter. You ought to read it carefully and earnestly. Before
Paul came to this 28th verse he's talking, a few verses ahead of this, on this whole mat-
ter of praying. And I know a measure of comfort in the light of what I've just told you:
Paul makes the admission that we really don't know how to pray correctly, or to pray
aright — that we get in the way of our prayers. And then he goes on to something abso-
lutely superb, and he says, "But the Holy Spirit takes over and makes intercession in our
behalf." We have that kind of God! Fumble and falter as we may in our praying, we can
trust God for His Holy Spirit that takes over where we fail as much as God saying to
us, "You can't understand, you're incapable of getting the whole picture." Nothing un-
usual about that.
When Jesus was here on earth, on more than one occasion, particularly in the latter
period of His life. He once said to His disciples, "I have so much more to tell you, but
you can't absorb it now. There is so much more in the picture but you're incapable of
getting the whole picture at this particular point in your life." Now do you see why
the Apostle Paul says, "Please believe me, there is no substitute for experience." Paul
says. That's exactly what he's saying when he says " We know ."
...not that "We think . . " ...not that "We imagine . . "
(Thomas Carlyle) (5)
not even that "We hope . . " He said, " We know that all things work together
for good to those who love the Lord."
Thomas Carlyle had eight brothers and sisters. One of them wrote him and said that
his mother was critically ill and having a very difficult period in her life. What do
you suppose Thomas Carlyle did? He wrote her a letter, as much as to say, "Mama, remem-
ber please what you taught us! Remember that verse of Scripture that you asked me to
memorize: 'All things work together for good to those who love the Lord, who are called
according to his purpose' - - - Mother, remember you used to say to us that the 'tender
mercies of the Lord never fail.'? What a gratifying thing it must have been for her to
have him feed back to her that by which she had first nurtured him.
But you see, it's difficult for us to believe that all things can work for good.
Some of us have been having a very critical period in our lives the last three months.
But we know who we are, and we trust the mercy of the Lord and trust His wisdom. Let me
give you a very simple, a very personal illustration: Winifred and I just celebrated a
wedding anniversary as we recall that May 25, 1940, at two o'clock in the afternoon. If
someone would have come to Winifred at that moment and said, "Winifred, Raymond just
promised to be faithful to you. Do you know that he will?" And in all honesty Winifred
would have answered that person who would ask such a terrible question: "No, I don't know.
But I trust him, and so we're going to face the future together." That's what love does.
Love always invites us to trust. Love is built on trust. That's what this text is tell-
ing us — "All things can work together for good to those who love the Lord. " Trust Him
with the good and the bad, trust Him with the pleasant and the painful. That's what the
text is saying. And Paul out of his experience says, "I know this to be true."
Now some among us perhaps haven't reached that point. But we know we should. And
we remain filled with hope. The very practical aspect of the interpretation of this
text is that we are meant to learn from anything that happens to us. There was a man who
became critically ill, and in the east they said, "You'll have to change your environment,
you'll have to go west and live in a different climate." He thought his whole world had
fallen apart. And while he was someplace out west, idling away his time, bored to death,
he started working with a hat, a broad-brimmed hat, that for the first time could protect
people against the fierce rays of the western sun. It was John B. Stetson - - something
terrible had happened to his life he tried to learn from it, that some good could
come from it.
A man by the name of Arthur Fuller set out to be — that's right, a brush salesman.
He failed. Despondent and distraught, about to give up — one of life's negatives. . .and
then he said to himself, What can I learn from this? Why did I fail? Was it my attitude?
Or maybe it was the product that I had, that it wasn't qulti'-good enough? He put the two
(Thomas Carlyle) (6)
together, got his own wire, got his own wood, got his own little machine - - and made
his own Fuller Brush, from one of life's negative experiences.
You want to hear something more, yet that you'll find difficult to believe? It's
a matter of historical record: The man was sentenced to die, by hanging. He was de-
clared an enemy of the State. And as they were leading him toward the scaffold he fell
and broke his leg. Some strange reaction - - they had mercy and said it's a shameful
thing to hang a man with a broken leg ... so they,' said, we'll wait until it heals.
While he was waiting to have the broken leg heal, the king died, and another person came
to the throne — who pardoned the man! You see, we never know , but we're meant to trust.
" For we know that all things work together for
good to those who love the Lord, who are called
according to his purpose . . "
God's ultimate purpose prevails - - come wind or weather, come pleasant things, or
painful. It takes a bit of doing to believe it. But I for one can't afford to submit
to the alternative nor, I dare say, can you. This I most certainly believe.
(Transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Day of Pentecost June 10, 1984
" A DAY TO REMEMBER "
(Acts 2:1, 2, 14)
POSSESS US, GOD, by Your Holy Spirit,
that giving some attention to the inter-
pretation of Your Word we may better
understand it. Through Jesus Christ,
Thy Son, our Lord, Who when He came,
came preaching. Amen.
The sermon bears the title: " A Day To Remember ;" and the text:
" When the day of Pentecost had come, they
were all together in one place, and suddenly
a sound came from heaven like the rush of a
mighty wind, and it filled all the house where
they were sitting . . .
and also this text:
" But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted
up his voice and addressed them . . .
Something wonderful had happened. They had been told that something wonderful was
goirg to happen. But human as we are, we do have our way of not taking Jesus at His
word. We may not intend that to happen, but again and ever so often that's just the
way it comes out. He either tells us something that we hear, and ignore or He tells
us something, and not being able to fully understand it, we don't take it seriously.
And all the while He's telling us something. It's the nature of God as revealed in Jesus
Christ never to be fully and completely silent. He always has something in mind — and
it's always for our good.
What happened on that day of Pentecost was an excellent example of what He had
promised and what He had predicted came true and was every bit as wonderful as He
said it would be! Now, you can't possibly appreciate this day that's meant to be remem-
bered unless we go back and try to get it in perspective. Let's begin with Jesus. God
sent Him here on earth at age 30 He began a ministry that took Him around from place
to place, a ministry that was meant to touch people's lives and to have the Heavenly
Father become increasingly real to them, to appeal to the potential that lies within
them, to waken within them the realization that they are now — not at some future time —
the children of God, and that they have a Heavenly Father.
He came preaching. He came teaching. He came performing miracles. And He recruited
a limited number of people who were meant to be with Him. They were called His disciples.
"A DAY TO REMEMBER" (2)
Every single one of them was human. They observed Him, they listened to Him, He prayed
with them - - they shared three wonderful years together. So far, so good. Then came
the last chapter to be written in His relationship with them. You remember the story.
You know your Bible very well. How does the record give it to us? One denied, one
betrayed . . . they all forsook Him and fled! But He had made certain promises to
them. He had told them certain things. He had asked that they might remember them.
. When the crucifixion was over, three days later the
resurrection experience — He appears , in glory, triumphant-
It's interesting to note that the angel gave a directive that when the discovery
was made that the grave was empty, there was one person in particular that Jesus wanted
to have the word gotten to: Peter. "Make sure Peter knows" - - "Make sure Peter gets
Now, in this time, after the crucifixion and perhaps even after the resurrection...
...you're not forgetting, are you, that they were human, every bit as human as we are.
The crucifixion had happened, it was a dastardly thing to do to their friend. They were
part of it. When something as terrible as that happens, two things will occur:
— people start blaming themselves. They think of what they
could have done, they think of how they might have measured up,
— The other thing is, when something unfortunate and as dastardly
as that kind of thing happens, human as they are, they start blaming
I can readily understand how those other disciples could have said to Peter: "Peter, if
only you hadn't behaved the way you did! You might have saved the day for us because
we were leaning on you. But you denied!" You see, they could have talked that way,
they were human. That's the way we talk — we blame ourselves, we blame other people.
It's so human.
I never cease to marvel, the older I become, as I read the Scriptures — not only
at the love of God but the wisdom of God. Jesus, knowing His disciples and knowing
them well, said to them, "Stay! Stay together. No matter how difficult it may be, you
stay together — and one day, I'm promising you now, if you stay together and you think
about me, I'll give you my Spirit, fully and completely."
"A DAY TO REMEMBER" (3)
That day came. It was the day of Pentecost. Read about it in the
second chapter of the book of the Acts of the Apostles as it was read for you as one
of the Lessons. They were all together — they were in one place — and then, as
Jesus had promised, the Spirit of God possessed every single one of them. And they
were caught up by it. They no longer thought about themselves. They no longer thought
about their differences. They only thought about one thing: each one of them was an
object of God's love and each one of them now was being visited by God's Spirit. Some-
thing of that kind had never happened before .
Anybody who has studied the doctrine of the Holy Spirit knows, and knows full
well, that this is not the first time the Spirit was operative in the world! The
Spirit was operative before, but as certain prophets maintained, it was only upon cer-
tain people that God's Spirit came fully and completely and perfectly. Now, on the
day of Pentecost, as they followed the directive of Jesus, the Holy Spirit came equally
to every single one of them — no one got more nor less than anybody else! And that's
wonderful. And it all happened because they remembered Jesus' directive, that they
should think about Him.
Now that's where Peter comes into the picture. You know, when something happens,
people say, "What happened?" It's an interesting thing as I have been reading this
second chapter all week — morning and night — in anticipation of being with you today:
bewildered. . .confused. . .amazed. When something happens, that's our reaction when it's
something as traumatic as that! And then when we're astounded by the happening, people
try to describe it to somebody else and no two people can do it alike! That's even
evident in the Scriptures
— somebody said, "It was like this ..."
— somebody said, "It appeared ..."
...that means, "We're not quite sure, it seems to us that's
the way it was — it was apparent to me."
Then after you go through that stage, somebody says, "Well, what does it mean?" Maybe
it isn't so important as to what had happened as to what do we make of it?
I never cease to marvel at how much applied psychology is in the Scriptures. And
then when people are talking back and forth, and the air is charged with emotion, God be
praised, if there can be somebody like Peter, who stands up and tries to identify all
the issues, and tries to bring what's meant to be the centrality of the focus. And
that's exactly what Peter did. And happy indeed are any of us when we find ourselves
in a situation like that, when some clear voice can be heard.
'A DAY TO REMEMBER" (4)
And then Peter lays it on the line. He tells it exactly as it happened, he
doesn't mince words. But all the while he's doing this, he's talking about how wonder-
ful God is, he's talking about what God has done, he recited history. He brings to
their attention how God has been active and operative in their lives. He gets them
thinking, not about themselves, but about God . And whenever people start focusing to-
gether on God's love and God's wisdom, wonderful things are always bound to happen.
So there you have it, you see a day to remember — because they followed
the directive of their Lord. They kept thinking about Him, and His purpose, and how He
had acted in their behalf, and how His love would not fail them: "It's wonderful!
we're made free! we're released.!"
In some churches on a day like today the congregation gathers outside, at the
close of the service, and theyte given a bunch of balloons, helium-filled, and they're
released and they go ever upward — freely — as they drift hither and yon free
spirits, when they're made free. We're meant to be made free, to rejoice in the Lord.
The founder of the Salvation Army is buried in Westminster Abbey. A simple-
minded preacher came to that marker signifying the fact that William Booth was laid to
rest there. He was on his knees when somebody went by, and he was heard to pray a very
simple prayer. What was he doing? He was looking back and he was remembering how God
had released His power in this world through one person, the founder of the Salvation
Army — and all the good that was let loose in this world as that person made himself
responsive to the Spirit and all that that simple, humble-minded preacher kneeling
at that grave could say was this :
"0 God, do it again!... do it again!... do it again!"
So on this day we remember what happened and we in all truth can say, "Do it again,
God — here — and among us." This I most certainly believe.
A day to remember? Happy indeed are those of you who look back and remember, who
made a promise to Jesus Christ on the day of your Confirmation. And blessed indeed are
those who every now and then look back and remember promises that were made, and how God
has helped us to keep those promises. We can't possibly have you gather today as we
think of the young people who are going to make their promises at 5:00 o'clock without
asking you to look back and remember the promises you made, and as you remember them, per-
chance now you are willing to renew it. So, therefore, I put the question to you ~ you
who once promised the Lord, to serve Him faithfully: at this particular stage in your
life, whatever your condition or circumstance, do you commit yourself anew to Jesus Christ
and do you promise to serve Him with all your heart? If so, answer: Yes, by the help of
God. ( )
"A DAY TO REMEMBER" (5)
The Father in Heaven for Jesus' sake renew and increase
in thee the gift of the Holy Ghost, to thy growth
in grace, to thy strengthening in faith, to thy
patience in suffering and to the blessed hope of
everlasting life. Amen.
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Sbaheen
Confirmation Service - 5;00 P.M. Pentecost - June 10, 1984
"THE SET OF THE SOUL"
GRACE, Mercy and Peace from God our
Father and from His Son Jesus Christ,
our Blessed Lord. Amen.
I would indeed be less than honest if I did not tell you that my heart was
filled with joy when the decision was made that I could have the privilege of
standing at this sacred desk for this particular service. My heart was gladdened
for any one of a number of reasons, for the preaching of the Confirmation Sermon
this year is very special to me.
If it's a title that you want for the sermon, here it is: " The Set Of The
Soul " - - and the text, already chosen by a member of the Confirmation Class as
one that could be very special to him all the days of his years: the 10th verse
of the 2nd chapter of the Book of the Revelation:
"... Be thou faithful unto death, and
I will give you a crown of life . . "
Do you remember how it is in Rodgers and Hammerstein' s "Carousel"? — the
young man and young woman day-dream about how wonderful their life could be to-
gether, in the lyrics which they sing comes this line: "When today is a long time
ago" - - so lovers think of the passing of the years, and always dream of even
brighter and better days yet to come. The future does unfold - - and every day,
every day - - has a tomorrow.
But what also needs to be remembered is that every day has a yesterday.
Mary Ann Shepherd, a daughter of a parsonage, in appreciation for her years here
at Saint Luke, once gave us a sampler which now hangs on the wall in one of the
rooms at the parsonage at 919 Highland Drive. It reads like this:
ALL THE FLOWERS OF ALL THE TOMORROWS
ARE IN THE SEEDS OF TODAY
....which is simply to suggest that today determines tomorrow, all other things
I am always troubled when I read some verses of Scripture. Some gladden my
heart. .. .some sadden my heart. I've never been that happy when I've come upon
"THE SET OF THE SOUL" (2)
this verse that refers to a person who ended his relationship with Jesus Christ
by this reference:
"... he went to his own place . . "
It wasn't a very complimentary reference to that man, for that man was one of
the Twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot.
Each of us has his own eccentricities, of course one does. One of my eccen-
tricities that I confess to you in this moment is being a bit uncomfortable when
I find myself in the presence, not of 13 people, but of 12. I've never been hung-
up on that "13" business. But when I find myself numbered as the 12th person, I
do a great deal of soul-searching. .. .because I do remember how one out of Twelve,
as far as the Master was concerned, ended up.
I'm eternally grateful in the years I have been able to spend with you that
when I approach the altar I'm constantly confronted by twelve figures carved into
oak: the Master and His men — disciples whom He had chosen, just as you are being
chosen. Your number has been considerably greater - - He had to get along with
far fewer in number than what we are able to get along with here in Saint Luke —
He had only twelve. But among the twelve there is one who is dismissed as far as
Scripture is concerned - — the only reference that remains to be made of him after
he had finished his course :
"... he went to his own place . . "
What shall we make of this way of putting it? Are we to believe that in the
final analysis each one of us ends up very much where he wants most to be? - -
- - do we really chart our own course?
- - do we really set our own sail?
- - do we really determine our own fate?
We've made much of this as far as you are concerned, members of this year's
Confirmation Class. At the very beginning, when we met with you this year we gave
you to understand that you would not have to be comfirmed — you could make the
choice not to be confirmed. But we did say: if you chose to be confirmed you would
make that decision on your own. There were those of us who were hoping and praying
how the decision would come out, and we were surrounded by your loved ones, your
family and your friends and all who have nurtured you in the faith — there was no
question how we hoped you would answer. But we could not answer for you. To all
intents and purposes there comes a moment, which is followed by other moments.
"THE SET OF THE SOUL" (3)
when a person sets his course and determines the way he will go.
A wise man once observed that there is a principle here which works in our
lives. We do go, each one to his own place — we find our own level according to
the secret desire or motivation which is in our hearts. We gather around us the
people with whom we want to be.... we find friends who are one-with-us in spirit . .
. . .we read the books that we^ want to read
...and if at all possible, we go to the places
where we want to go
. . .we turn the channel on the television set to the
program we^ want to see
It can be said we make our own world, it can be simply put in that manner.
Still as of old, each one goes to his own place.
— one may seek for money - one may seek for pleasure
— one may desire to serve his fellow-men -
one may decide to exploit them
— one may decide to make the most of what life will give -
one may decide to be victimized by circumstances
Oliver Wendell Holmes, bless his soul, compares the course of two rivers —
they rise in the same mountain-side, but they flow in different directions, until
a whole continent divides them by the waters. So people take their different ways
in life according to the set of their souls. The poet put it this way:
"From the same cradle-side.
From the same mother's knee.
One to the lone darkness and frozen tide.
One to the placid sea . . "
That sounds, wouldn't you say, as though we pretty much determine the circxmstances
in which we eventually find ourselves? It's an awesome fact, to say the least.
It could be, my friend, that no matter where you may be right now, look care-
fully - - you're probably there amid the circumstances that surround you because
at one time or another you either chose to head in that direction, or you allowed
yourself to drift. You are where you are because you allowed yourself to drift in
that direction, or you made the terrible decision that that's where you wanted to
For those of you who are familiar with the Southwest, there's a road marker.
"THE SET OF THE SOUL" (4)
The upright post has two arms on it. Try to visualize it now - -
— the one side says ALBUQUERQUE
— the other side points : LOS ANGELES
....and at that particular point the traveler has to make a decision: you'll either
end up in Los Angeles or you'll end up in Albuquerque. And if you're not sure
where you might want to go you might even flip a coin to decide in which direction
you're going to travel - - - but even the flipping of the coin does not allow you
to escape from the element of responsibility. You can't have it both ways — you
can't be in Albuquerque and Los Angeles at the same time! It's one... or the other.
And there's always the element of responsibility in the making of the choices which
cannot be escaped.
I have little patience with so-called therapeutic measures which are always
trying to excuse people from the element of responsibility. God endowed us with
the capability of making a choice. A man or a woman is never as much as a man or
a woman is meant to be aside from the fact that when he or she brings honor and
glory to God in loving and serving Him — as when he exercises the freedom to do
so. God did not make you as puppets, to pull a string and to have you say, "Yes,
Master. .. .No, Master" - - He made you that out of your free will you could set the
course. And He offered you that opportunity because He loved you.
What may be true in the realm of circumstance can be true very much as far
as character is concerned: we become what we are according to our hea rts - -
" Keep thy heart with all diligence for
out of it are the issues of life. "
What we secretly desire is that we become. And brace yourself for this: generally
speaking, life has a way of giving us what we really want if not by actual
condition, then certainly by fashioning the character that seeks such things.
I am nimibered among those who lament the fact that what has passed from the
public school scene in many areas is the memorization of poetry that inculcated
in the minds of those who are young essential values of spiritual truth. Some of
us remember when we were in school, how the requirement was that each month we
memorize a given poem that was naturally very carefully chosen, that it might in-
culcate in us at the impressionable age of life ideals, basic principles of mora-
lity and virtue. To my dying day I shall remember how I was required to memorize,
among other things, "Be loyal to the royal that is within you."
we introduced into our curricula body-building courses
because we earnestly believed that American manhood should
be physically fit
"THE SET OF THE SOUL" (5)
Just as important, if not even more so, I suggest to you, is that we introduce
those things that enable us to become spiritually and morally fit. Polonius
says to his son, doesn't he, in Shakespeare's "Hamlet" - - "To thine own self
be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false
to any man." And periodically a person must take himself or herself to task to
ask the question: What kind of person am I becoming?
In what direction am I heading?
Tomorrow does come. And tomorrow is fashioned out of the stuff of today, which
is the yesterday that eventually looms upon the horizon.
Wouldn't it be a terrible thing if all that we had to say today was that
there was one out of twelve who "went to his own place"? — separated forever from
all the others - - - why should I allow myself to be crippled by thinking of that
one? Why shouldn't I also think of the eleven? — the eleven who made it! — the
eleven who proved the point that Jesus had in mind: "Be thou faithful unto death
and I will give you the crown of life" . . . and every single one of the eleven
received the crown of life! It's possible! Eleven out of twelve made it, and
they made it because they remembered the promise of their Lord:
"I will go with you"
... "I will never leave you"
...Lo, I will always be with you"
..."My peace I will give to you"
. there's this precious side of the coin that could be ignored, the glorious side
of the coin: a person can choose to go to Heaven.
"To every man there openeth a way, and ways, and a way.
And the high soul climbs the high way,
and the low soul gropes the low;
But in between, in the misty flats
The rest drift to and fro.
But to every man there openeth a high way and a low.
And each man decides the way his soul shall go."
And you can end up at Heaven's gate.
John Henry Newman said, "God has created me to do Him some definite service.
He's committed some work to me which He has not committed to anybody else. I have
my mission. I am a link in a chain, a bond of character between persons. He has
not created me for nought. I shall do good, I shall do His work."
"THE SET OF THE SOUL " ( 6 )
Somewhere along the line Judas Iscariot forgot to talk to himself in that
way. The eleven did. And as the eleven remembered it, they ended up at the Gate
of Heaven, where a crown of light was awaiting them.
Come now, what do you think is the most important single question that a man
can put to himself? it's not a question, mark you, that you are supposed to apply
for the moment to somebody else. Most of us are quite good at putting questions
to other people. But the real test of character may lie in the questions we ask
ourselves, and the answers we give. Of all such questions, I suggest to you now,
the most important is this: What is the secret longing of my heart?
What do I want most from life?
That's why we've deliberately written into the Order for Confirmation what you're
about to experience, when the question is put to you:
"Do you love the Lord Jesus ,
and do you promise to serve
Him with all your heart?"
And the answer that you give is :
"Yes, by the help of God."
In my study, so close to the very place where I am standing now, I have a
little white card on my desk. it refers to the day when I was ordained a Minister
of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It says something like this:
"Keep this vestment spotless unto the Day of Judgment."
I can't keep my vestment spotless, I live in a world where there's always the pos-
sibility of my tripping myself up, and my getting it soiled. And that I have al-
ready done on more than one occasion. Jesus Christ does not ask us to be perfect
- - - He asks us to be faithful. And to that end He will help you day after day
after day, as long as you set your soul in His direction
— and that's the power that lies within you ;
to keep your eye on Jesus Christ.
.and when you keep your eye on Jesus Christ, you'll
end up where Jesus Christ is. And that's a happy thought!
This I most certainly believe.
* * * *
May the Peace of God that passeth
all understanding keep your hearts
anri minds through Christ Jesus.
(This sermon transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
Trinity Sunday June 17, 1984
"FAVORITE TEXTS OF FAMOUS PERSONS:
BLAISE PASCAL" (Jeremiah 2; 13)
GRACE, Mercy and Peace from God
our Father and from His Son Jesus
Christ, our Blessed Lord. Amen.
For a number of weeks and months now some of you are fairly aware of the fact
that the sermons for the most part being preached from this pulpit have been on the
general theme: " Favorite Texts of Famous Persons. " This is the next to the last in
that series of sermons.
I'm in duty bound to remind you what I haye already told you, that there are
those who when they think of their commitment to Jesus Christ, invariably think of
a particular verse of Scripture, Biblical truth is meant to be applicable in our
lives, to become a dominating force. Biblical truth is God's Word to us. Biblical
truth is God's revelation of Himself to us. And God wants it to make an impact.
God wants it to be a motivating force in our lives. God wants it to determine the
course that we may take throughout the days of our years. There is nothing quite
like Scriptural truth coming to life within the soul of a person „
Tradition has it — it is only a legend, of course, that in Heaven above there
is a Keeper-iof-The-Book, and that Book, as you might know, of course, is the Bible.
It is a large volume with wide margins . . .
....and according to the legend, whenever a person is converted,
whenever there's a complete change of heart, whenever there is
final and complete realization that a person knows who he is and
whose he is — that he's a child of God and belongs to God — when
he knows that Jesus Christ is his Lord and Saviour. o. .when that
experience sets in a person's life, according to tradition....
in the wide margins of the Book being kept by the Keeper in Heaven above — that
person's name is recorded, and recorded opposite that verse of Scripture which has
been instrumental in changing that perspn's life.
Which leads me to ask very earnestly the question of you: as your life is being
changed — as the reality of your relationship with God is being made firm — can
you associate it with any particular thing? - with any particular place? - with any
particular person? - with any particular reference in Scripture?
" FAVORITE TEXTS; BLAISE PASCAL "
Last Lord's Day during that impressive Confirmation Service we reminded ourselves
that there is such a thing as a Confirmation Verse. Hopefully those who have Confirma-
tion Verses will on occasion reflect on that Biblical truth. This morning now, I want
to talk to you a little bit about a man named PASCAL - - said by many who are in a
position to make such a judgment that he was the greatest thinker of the 17th Century,
whose influence remains to this very day....
- - he's to be remembered as a scientist o,..
- - he's to be remembered as a writer».oo
- - he's to be remembered as a logician, a philosopher of no
small value, . . .
I can't give you too much pertinent data regarding his life, I can tell you this: that
he had a father who was tremendously interested in him, and paid attention to him as a
person. His father, perhaps, was as strong an influence on his life as any single
In those days, back in the 17th Century, when we didn't have the academic training
as we have now, every now and then this person or that person would take it upon himself
or herself to educate someone. In this case it was Pascal's father who assumed the res-
ponsibility of educating his son. Incidentally — that word educate comes from the
Latin — which means " to lead out " — to challenge, to stimulate what may be in front
of you. And that Pascal's father did superbly. They did not always agree, but he was
instrumental in encouraging his son to think, to develop the fulness of his potential.
Of significance to us this morning is the text that dominated his life, . . oOnly,
of course, after he came to grips with it. Let me read it for you now, from the Book
of Jeremiah, that reluctant prophet, the second chapter, the 13th verse:
" For my people have committed two evils; they
have forsaken me the fountain of living waters ,
and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns,
that can hold no water , "
Now, bear with me for just a little while, while we deal specifically with this
text. Then we'll come back and talk about the way it's related to Pascal and changed
I don't know how important water is for you. I know very well that the old
adage remains: You never miss the water until the well runs dry . Winifred and I had a
visitor from India before I went to India on special assignment a number of years ago,
who when she was a guest in our home, Winifred allowed the water to run freely from the
tap. She became completely unsettled ~ she couldn't believe this apparent waste of
"FAVORITE TEXTS: BLAISE PASCAL" (3)
something that was as precious to her as she remembered what it was in India. ...
... I remember what it was like in India — on certain days , the
last time Pastor David and I were there on special assignment, we
had water only certain hours of the day.
...once when Winifred and I made that trip aroiond the world and we
were in Hong Kong, water every other day , for only a limited amount
of time ....
...when I first went to Europe, circumstances were such that for
one day — a 24-hour period — I was without any water at all....
I remember the days of World War II, there was a tall, lanky physician in my home town
who was drafted by the military, and off he went. And when he came back, he had been
stationed on Ascension Island, and he told me of the scarcity of water — good water —
he was rationed only as much water as his helmit could hold, to last three days —
water for all purposes.
In many parts of the Middle East, and what we refer to as the Holy Land in parti-
cular, water is an exceedingly precious thing, and pure water above all else. Jeremiah
is talking about God as the source of living water, a pure fountain, absolutely essen-
tial for one ' s existence . And then as Jeremiah thinks of the people to whom God had
shown special favor, how in their history they failed to take advantage of what God
was giving them so freely, and what they needed so essentially, and in their stupidity
— in their apostasy, in their unfaithfulness - - - Jeremiah says they were hewing out
for themselves cisterns that could not hold water, that would eventually crack, and
the water itself would be polluted . . . while all the time God was making available
for them a source of pure and living water - - that's Jeremiah, 13th verse, 2nd chapter.
Now... back to our friend Pascal. At 31 years of age he was converted. At 31
years of age — well, let me give you some of the details, you may find them of interest.
....it is late at night, one night in particular — if it's a date
you want, here it is: November 23, the year 1654... the time: 10:30
at night, and the encounter took place until 12:30 in the morning
That's the way it was when a 31-year old man had a conversion experience. He was
Pascal, the thinker , unsurpassed in brilliance and audacity....
— he was Pascal, the scientist , who knew how to harness the
most profound erudition to the most practical ends „ . . . .
— he was Pascal, the writer, who can express the most abstruse
ideas in language a little child can iinderstand. . . .
"FAVORITE TEXTS: BLAISE PASCAL" (4)
Those ±n a position to say so have maintained that no one in his generation influenced
civilization as much as this man did — even to this very day — would you believe me,
and I have reason to tell you this, that even modern technology with its computers can
trace itself back to the work of Pasx^al, who gave us the calculator. His work with
fluids still determines much that's being done in physics and chemistry today....
— in some theological seminaries what he wrote about deep
reflective thought is happily made required reading
On that night in November 23, 1654 he had an encounter with God. And the net
result was, it occurred to him in no uncertain way that he was not drawing strength
from the real source in life - - he was not drinking, if you please, from the living
fountain. His relationship with God was less than desirable. He was not drawing
the full benefit of what God could give to him. He was so impressed by that experi-
ence that night that he wrote on parchment and stitched it into the clothing that he
wore, this verse of Scripture, so that he might never forget this encoxinter.
Several reflections now, if you don't mind.
Every now and then you and I have our time when reality sets in, and we see our-
selves as we are and have been, and could be J And we have some measure of peace with
ourselves. That's precisely what Pascal had on that night from 10:30 until 12:30, No-
vember 23, 1654 — an encounter with God. He never wanted to forget it.
With all the strength that my soul can command I'd like to suggest to you that
it is possible for us to have these moments of reality, exceedingly precious moments
before God. And himian as we are, we need to keep in front of us some kind of a re-
minder, lest we lose the value that's properly placed upon that encounter and upon
that experience. Give Pascal credit — he didn ' t want to lose it, and he knew that
he had to remind himself that it did happen.
Why do some of us keep coming back to this place Sunday after Sunday? We need
to be reminded of what takes place when we find ourselves within the gathered company.
We need to hear the echo down the corridors of time of the eternal voice that speaks
to the present moment. That's why we come here.
As an impressionable teenager I remember, and remember so well, going into Upper
Temple at Nawakwa, where the first speaker that I heard said to us very clearly and
succinctly, "I come here to be made aware of God because it's so easy to forget Him
when I'm somewhere else."
I delight in reminding you of that old story of the old man who night after
night after night walked the streets of Jericho until he came to a sycamore tree..,..
" FAVORITE TEXTS; BLAISE PASCAL " ( 5 )
and he stood there \ander that sycamore tree in deep thought. There were people natu-
rally observed him, it was just like clock-work - - night after night after night he
came , the old man standing under the sycamore tree . . o .
. . . .who was it made bold to put the question to him that
inevitably had to be asked, so curious are we,
"Old man, I see you coming back here night after
night to this very spot as you stand under the
sycamore tree. Who are you? Why do you come
. . . the answer :
"My name is Zacchaeus. It was here that I
encountered my Lord, and I come back to
remind myself of what it was like . . "
...as much as to say, "to remind myself of who I am and whoae I am."
Pascal wrote on a piece of parchment, November 23, 1654 — 10:30 at night until
12:30 in the morning:
" For my people have committed two evils; they
have forsaken me the fountain of living waters,
and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns,
that can hold no water . "
From November 23, 1654 Pascal gave his life as completely as he could to Jesus Christ -
wholeheartedly. He lived only eight more years. He died at the age of 39.
Naturally you know I'm saying to myself, what a pity that for only a fifth of his
life he took God seriously, and drew, to his own life the benefit of all that God wants
to give — pure and living water is being made available to us. Let me be as old-fash-
ioned as I can be in the preaching of this sermon — bring all the chords of the old-
fashioned evangelist. Why do we tarry? Why do we delay? — when what we need most
is always there.
The old Westminster Catechism of the Presbyterian Church . . . you know what the
catechism is, of course, a series of questions and short answers directed as precisely
as they can to the question that's put honestly . . . „ the very first question in the
old Westminster Catechism of the Presbyterian Church:
" What is the chief end of man? "
....which is simply to ask, why is man here?
what's his purpose for existence?
The answer is given superbly - -
" The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever "
...to make the most of it in a gratifying and a happy way.
"FAVORITE TEXTS: BLAISE PASCAL" (6)
I too have it on parchment in my study, just steps away from where I am
standing - - m^ favorite text:
". . . So naturally we proclaim Christ . We teach every
man we can ..."
and the text goes on —
" , . hopefully that we might bring every man up to his
full maturity in Jesus Christ. This is what I am doing
all the time with all the strength that God gives me ..."
And I honestly believe that we're always less than what we're meant to be until we
get squared off with God, until our lives are guided and motivated and strength-
ened , and dominated by God.
Pascal had that happen for eight years, only a fraction of his life, one-fifth
of it. The tragedy is that for any number of people it's not even a fifth. Oh, I
know there's always the possibility of a person turning to God and allowing God to
take over - - always the possibility, even to the last hour.... as is true for the
dying thief upon the cross, and the promise of Paradise was his. The tragedy is
this: up to that point his was a life without God. And it doesn't have to be that
Scriptural truth remains:
"I will never leave you — I will never forsake you.
Lo , I am with you always . "
Take Him at His word. Draw strength of the living fountain.
This I most certainly believe.
May the peace of God that passeth
all understanding keep your hearts
and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
(Transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Third Sunday After Pentecost July 1, 1984
' ' GOD HAS NO NUMBER ONE"
Grace, Mercy and Peace from God
our Father and from His Son Jesus
Christ, our Blessed Lord. Amen.
Presumably it is not necessary, but let me introduce myself: I am an ordained
minister of the Lutheran Church in America, and by that authority I stand at this
sacred desk. That's one way by which I could introduce myself.
I'm constrained to introduce myself this way on this particular Sunday, in the
week that has a national holiday: I who stand before you am the son of an immigrant,
the son of a Lebanese pedlar whose heart's desire at 18 years of age was to come to
a brand new world, who never again returned to his native Lebanon; and once he set
foot on Ellis Island, this would be his home until God called him into the Great Gate.
All that I'm about to say to you I say with all the strength of my soul as the son of
a man who loved America.
Having told you that, there are two things that I must also share with you.
Every now and then a person ought to sit down and thank God specifically for certain
things. It's a salutary thing to do. I have my moments when of all the things for
which I could thank God, I thank Him that my parents saw fit to cradle me in their
arms and to head for the house of God, and not to be content until a man of God would
take me into his arms, baptize me and name me for Jesus Christ. I know no greater
blessing than the realization that I am a child of God, and that came to me through
the Sacrament of Baptism.
When I was baptized I became a part of the Family of God, I became a ■ part of
people such as you. And whether you like it or not, I have now become a part of you,
I belong to you, and you have a measure of responsibility for me because I am part of
your family. That means more to me than I can ever put into words. And when I thank
God for my blessings, I thank Him that I am His child and you are my brother, and you
are my sister.
When I enumerate my blessings I go on to thank God that when my father with that
noble dream of his wanted to come to a new world, he was not content until he could
come all the way to America. Some day you must be kind enough to give me time just to
talk to you about him, one of the most honest men that I ever knew — one of the best
persons I ever knew. The first $200 that he earned he sent back to cover his three-
" GOD HAS NO NUMBER ONE (2)
weeks' passage by steamer — the time that elapsed from Beirut to Ellis Island. I
could tell you so much. But for the moment I thank God that he was not content until
he could come to America. And, of all the places on the earth that I've ever visited,
I can understand now more than ever Why he would want America to be his America. You
need to understand this because all that I'm going to say to you now is against that
The title for this sermon on this Sunday anticipating the Fourth of July is simply
this: " God Has No Number One " ... and the text, the 19th verse of the 18th chapter
of the book of Deuteronomy:
" If you forget the Lord your God and go after
other gods and serve them and worship them, I
solemnly warn you this day that you will surely
Any number of people who heard the preacher on that occasion would have been very
happy, of course, if he hadn't gone that far. You may be numbered among those people
who wish that the preacher would stop at a particular ppint instead of going on and on
and on but this preacher did go on and on. You need to know what he said before he
came to this point — he was telling these people who were in front of him how absolute-
ly wonderful they were in God's eyes. He was recalling their history for them, and he
kept saying, "You're special!" He might just as well have said, "You're Number One in
God's eyes." That's how the preacher got carried away ... he said, "Think of what's
happened to us, of all the people on the face of the earth - -
— God called us by name
— God made us a nation
— God made promises to us
— God entered into an agreement
— God made a covenant
— of all the people on the face of the earth God said,
'I am going to give you the Ten Commandments'
— of all the people on the face of the earth God said
to us, 'I'll get you out of the land of bondage,
I will free you, I will lead you, I will provide you
a Moses.... a Joshua. .. .1 '11 provide you kings, and
prophets, judges — you are mine. I have called you
by name, you belong to me.'"
There stood Moses, looking yonder to the promised land, a land in which he'd never
p;ut his own foot, telling these people in grand and glowing terms what a wonderful rela-
tionship they , of all the people on the face of the earth — say it repeatedly of all
the people on the face of the earth, had with God. And they were excited. And as he re-
called for them one incident after another in their history.
" GOD HAS NO NUMBER ONE" (3)
I don't know of any people on the face of the earth who have a greater appreciation
for history than do the Jewish people. They're always recalling it, they are always re-
living it. Even on the night when they celebrate the Passover, the head of the house
says, hoping that some youngster in the family may be able to answer to "Why is this
night different from any other night?" The implication remains: Why are we as a people
different from any other peepj-e? And Moses held them spellbound, I have reason to be-
lieve. And all that they could say was, "You're absolutely right — God did do this for
us! God did do this for us! God did keep; his promise, God did bring us on our way in,
murmur and rebel as we did, but here we are! And there it is, as God ^ promised!"
Any number of people, I dare say, would have been very happy if the preacher would
have stopped at that point. The flags were unfurled, the trumpets were being sounded,
they were all excited. They were God's chosen, they had a relationship with God as no
other people had.
That's the point at which Moses brought them, but he didn t stop, and I'd like to
think with thunder in his voice and fire in his eyes he said, "I want to tell you some-
thing: you can't go home yet, and we'te not going to sing the Doxology at this point,
and I'm not going to pTonounce the benediction the sermon isn't ended. You've got
to hear me - -
— if you forget the Lord your God, and
— 1£ you go after other gods, and
— if you serve them and
— if you worship them ....
Let's pause for a moment. You see, this is always a possibility. No one ever has it
made. No one can ever say "This is it!" ~ and then you throw yourself in neutral.
For nations, just as it is true for individuals, there is always the^ ppssibility of
falling from grace.
I want to remember and remember so well - - when I was taking a course in biography,
how the professor reminded me of a certain distinguished individual who refused to have
his biography written while he was living, because, he said, "I have seen too many peo-
ple fall flat on their face, even in the latter years of their life ." There is always
this possibility. And I say this to you only because we must be eternally vigilant, we
must always maintain our guard. None of you ever has it made so that he can shift into
neutral — the kind of thing that Moses was telling the Children of Israel ~ "Sure, you
think you're Number One — Sure, you're secure in what God promises you! But you can't
ignore the element of responsibility - - "
— "If you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and
" GOD HAS NO NUMBER ONE " (4)
serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you this day
that you shall surely perish."
I say it quickly, ever so quickly: if you're ever inclined to think that God has
His favorites, if you're ever inclined to think that God does choose certain people,
remember this and remember it well, His basic rules of justice remain for all people
alike, and even more so for those who may allow themselves to believe that they're in
a favored position. "Those to whom much has been given, of them much will be re-
I find no quarrel that they allowed themselves to believe that they were God's
chosen people — we still use the figure of speech. I find no quarrel with that. 1
was one of six kids I'm not at all troubled that on certain occasions my dad or my
mother would choose one of us, one of us for a special assignment. I find no trouble
with that, making a choice and allowing a person to believe that at that particular
time he was chosen. I've seen craftsmen work, and occasionally I have seen them reach
for a particular tool, passing over other tools on the bench, because in order to ac-
complish what needed to be done that needed that particular tool and they choose
it for that purpose. I find no quarrel with the figure of speech "God'fe chosen."
In fact, I know a measure of satisfaction in realizing that the church is a New
Israel — really now! The real Israel is not a political state! The New Israel is
the Church of Jesus Christ! We, of all the people on the face of the earth are the
ones chosen by God that He may work through us what He has in mind for all the people
on the face of the earth.
There's some measure of satisfaction in being told that you're chosen. I am eter-
nally grateful that I am a grandfather. It adds a whole new dimension to my life,
and that the relationship that exists between a grandfather and grandchildren that only
grandfathers and grandchildren can talk about. I remember how thrilled I was when the
first of our grandsons came to me, he must have been four or five years of age — I
was thinking about him when I was sitting on the porch and mused the other evening.
Every now and then you need to sit down and reach back into the past for something good
that you can hold on to. And I remember that particular night when he sat there and he
looked up to me and he said, "Pop-Pop — you're my Number One!"
You have no idea what that did to me - - for down deep in our hearts we all want to
be Number One to somebody. - - "Pop-Pop, you're my Number One" — I felt very good until
I heard him say that to somebody else! And then I took myself to task, and I said why
" GOD HAS NO NUMBER ONE" (5)
should I fault him for being generous? He's not being deceitful, he's not being devious,
- - he's just being generous. He feels this way toward people, and may he always allow
p'eople to feel that they're special to him!
We who think we're Number One in God's eyes — America — we have our moments,
we really do, when we think we're Number One in God's eyes — even the Children of
Israel, of all the nations on the face of thei earth, claim to be Number One in God's
eyes. We have so much to prove it, don't we? Look at the map^! — the wide geographi-
cal exp.anse, the envy of any number of nations all put together, when they see how big
— we feel as though we 'ire very special when we realize what we have —
from shore to shore and border to border....
— our resources — we think we'te special, honest we do, when we recog-
nize what's happened with our productivity, our economic resources,
our technology. . . .
It is absolutely amazing what we can do, and every now and then some of us say thanks
to God - - thanks to God.
But the words of the preacher remain. We may be special. We may allow ourselves
to think that we have favor in God's eyes. But down through the corridors of time
the preacher hasn't changed his tune:
" If you forget the Lord your God and go after other
gods, and if you serve them and worship them, I
solemnly warn you this day that you will surely perish. "
As a student of history I became acquainted with the name of Alex DeTopville. He's
the one you see, who has often been quoted as he visited our land, saying, "America is
great because America is good." Don't settle just for that sentence. Get it in its
prop;er context — this is what he said fully and completely: "I sought for the great-
ness and the genius of America, not her commodious harbors and her aKpfLe rivers, and
it was not there. I sought for the greatness and the genius of America in her fertile
fields and boundless forests, and it was not there; I sought for the greatness and the
genius of America in her rich mines and her vast world of commerce, and it was not there;
I sought for the goodness and genius of America in her public school system and her in-
stitutions of learning, and it was not there; I sought for the greatness and the
genius of America in her democratic Congress and her matchless Co nstitution, and it
was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pul jLt
flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and- pwer. America
"GOD HAS NO NUMBER ONE" (6)
is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease
to be great." Any nation that allows itself to believe that it has the smile of God'fe
favor upon it is constrained to remind itself that God holds us responsible for what we
do, for what He allows us to have.
Rudyard Kipling, in his ( ) caught it magnificently when, at the time of
the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria — when all the masses and forces of Britain's
strength and the plitical and economic and cultural forces of the world were amassed,
and when the last celebration had been held, it was Rudyard Kipling who gave to his
people these words:
"God of our fathers, known of old.
Lord of our far-flung battle-line.
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and' jlne;
Lord God of hosts, be with us yet.
Lest we forget - - lest we forget!
(transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost July 15, 1984
" A HARD LESSON "
(Matthew 10: 24-25)
Grace, Mercy and Peace from
God our Father and from his
Son, Jesus Christ, our Blessed
Occasionally we at Saint Luke receive visitors who come and want to know about
our ministry and about our program; and I catch, every now and then, an envious note.
They're impressed by our schedule, they say good and kind words about our facilities.
And then I find myself in the position of having to say to them (and don't press me
too far on this one, please) — that whatever we do in Saint Luke we could do better
if we were only smaller.
Now you have to understand that a bit. Unless you belonged to a much smaller
congregation you can't possibly appreciate the kind of thing that does happen when num-
bers are fewer. There's a freedom, there's a personal relationship that you can't pos-
sibly have in a much larger group. I am reasonably certain that X-Jinifred after all
these years has made her adjustment to the size of Saint Luke, but occasionally I
wouldn't fault her one bit if she has a measure of nostalgia for that little white
frame church in the hills of north central Pennsylvania in Pleasant Valley, where per-
chance on any given Lord's Day only a fraction of the number of people who are here
this morning will be present for divine worship there.
Now why do I speak so warmly about this kind of thing now? For the simple reason
that when they come together they pay attention to each other personally. And if you
have been away for the week they'll say, "You're back! — How did it go? Did you have
a good trip? - - did you meet anybody that you knew before?" That's the kind of thing
that happens! And I remember that when as a youngster in my home church, when our
preacher's son went off to spend a weekend with a buddy in the country . . .
— recollecting, of course, how the farmers used to stand outside
even after the first hymn had begun, to continue their conversation;
they weren't about to go in until perhaps near the time for the ser-
...and Harold came back and said to his dad,
(remember, now, how those people had congregated and
talked so easily outside before they went in to sing
the first hymn)
" A HARD LESSON" (2)
. . . "Well, Pop, I can't tell you much about the sermon, but
I can tell you the price of potatoes."
...this kind of thing that happens even before people sing the first hymn.
Now, if you don't mind, I have been away. I wasn't here last Sunday. Maybe you
noticed! Maybe you'd like to know where I was, and maybe you'd like to know what I
was up to? Well, I was outside of Madison, Wisconsin. Winifred and I spent a week
at St, Benedict's Retreat Center. It's staffed by the Sisters of St. Benedict. It is
Roman Catholic by tradition; its doors are open to any people who might come who'd
care to use the facilities. For five weeks now we Lutherans will be using St. Benedict's
Retreat Center. Near the end of June 35 people newly assigned for mission fields over-
seas, along with their 20 children, are spending time together. They're being indoctri-
nated, they're being prepared for what it is to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in this day
and age overseas.
My assignment this past week was to serve as their spiritual leader, to conduct
daily worship for them, to make myself available to talk with any people who may want
to talk with someone whom God has been using for more than four decades with a pastor's
heart. There was also time given to meet in informal groups when we talked about the
(I should say this to you quite parenthetically — the chapel
is a very interesting place. It doesn't have very much orna-
mentation, you're impressed immediately by what you see: four
walls, a vaulted ceiling, no altar as such, a Communion table,
and multiple chairs, no pews.)
Now I had to conduct worship for them Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
mornings, and what do you suppose happened? Each morning I re-arranged the chairs —
sometimes we were facing one another. .. .sometimes we were a semi-circle, like an amphi-
theatre, a little family gathered together.
How do you suppose I arranged them the last morning I was with them? Not in a way
you might suspect — fully aware of the fact that this would be my last time with them,
I recognized that I would be leave-taking. The time had come for me no longer to stay !.
there, just as the time would come for them when they no longer would be able to stay
there. So I arranged all the chairs with their back toward the altar wall, and they
were facing the open doors! The front of the chapel is a series of glass window panes,
with three large doors. And I opened every single one of those doors, and all the peo-
ple assembled together would not face an altar with a cross and candles. .. .they faced
an open door!
" A HARD LESSON " (3)
The thesis is simple: Eventually the time comes when every single one of us has
to get up from the place where he happens to be and move on to some other place. Life,
properly understood, is a pilgrimage, a journey, we move on from one place to another.
Life, properly understood, is lived out in chapters. We deal with one segment of some
things in our lives, and then that chapter is over and we have to move on to the next
Not long after I became pur Pastor — don't get me wrong on this — I said I was
going to have a new sign put on my desk. . . (I never did) . . . .but the new sign was going
to read like this: NEXT PROBLEM, PLEASE - - because that's life, you see, you go from
one problem to another, you go from one chapter to another, and some people go from one
place to another. So in a certain sense the symbol for life itself could be an open
door. You can't always stay where you are, you've got to move on to the next place,
deal with the next person, concentrate on the next problem.
These 35 people who were there, called by the Church to serve overseas, I sat with
them in one conference after another, I could catch something of their fears, their
anxieties. The thing that troubled me was that while there was a measure of expectancy,
I did not feel an over-riding sense of joy. Maybe they were a bit too anxious, maybe a
bit too troubled as to what it was that would lie ahead, because for every single one
of them something new and different would lie ahead for them.
There's a text for all that I'm saying to you this morning. It's inspired by to-
day's Gospel lesson. In fact, the text is the introductory verse to that Gospel lesson
which was not included: the 10th chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, verses 24
and 25: " The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant
above his lord.
It is enou^ for the disciple that he be as his master ,
and the servant as his lord . . . .
Now, stick with me for a minute. That 10th chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew
deserves careful reading and you won't much like it at first blush. Let's be very
honest with ourselves, there's more than one page in the Bible that we wish to God had
never been written! Some things inspire us, some things make us very happy. But we're
saddened when we have to be confronted by some things that we do read in the Bible,
even thou^ they come from the lips of Jesus Christ. As an example, in that 10th chap-
ter of the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus had recruited his disciples ~ all twelve
of them. It's the 10th chapter of Matthew that names them for us. They're no sooner
named, the roster is no sooner announced, than Jesus Christ as their lord and master
gives them their marching orders — there it is in that 10th chapter! He tells them
" A HARD LESSON" (4)
to get on the road they can't stay where they are, they've got to move on! Figur-
atively speaking, the door is open ... as though Jesus Christ re-arranged the chairs
in His chapel, and had everybody facing an open door.
He tells them hard for us to take in this day and age when we make so much of
fringe benefits, pension ri^ts, entitlement programs He said, "Don't you dare worry
overmuch about your pay check" ...(that's my free translation) ... He said, "You don't
take any coins in your purse, you don't have to worry about them. You concentrate on
doing a day's work! — and you trust me to see that you will be taken care of."
I was deeply troubled at that conference. I'm going to be very honest with you.
There was one spouse going out, and she would like very much to have been assured that
she would get the same amount of salary that her husband was going to get who was being
called as the missionary. That troubles me. When I thought how even the way of the
world could put us Christians to shame when a person volunteers for the Peace Corps, that
person goes with far less concern for monetary re-imbursement than what some representa-
tives of Jesus Christ will agree to before they pack their bags and go overseas I'm
sorry to have to tell you this!
So you see, I'm telling you about what Jesus was telling these people, laying it on
the line. He was saying it to people whom He had called - - He had chosen them! And by
the way, did you ever stop to ask yourself the question: What is the first thing, and
perhaps the only thing that Jesus Christ requires of any disciple? And you ought to know
what the word disciple means - - it comes from the Latin and from the Greek, which means
to be a learner , to be a follower -- that's the first and only thing that Jesus Christ
asks of any of us. In any day and in any age — not how much you know, not how much you
have, not where your status may be in society. The first and primary thing that He asks
of any of us is that we learn of Him, that we follow Him, that we look upon Him as Master
and Teacher. So He says now ~ "Hit the road! Don't worry about your salary check."
If it's any comfort to you, let me tell you something else in that 10th chapter of
Matthew — read it for yourself: "If you ever go to a place and they're not kindly dis-
posed toward you, you don't have to stay . . " That's in the Bible! " . . . If they
don't receive you, you shake the dust off of your feet and move away from that town —
don't waste your efforts unproductively. The work is so urgent, there are people who so
much need to hear what only you can bring to them — get to those people as fast as you
can! ..." How about that for a piece of advice and counsel from no one less than
You're not forgetting, are you, that He also said, "I'm sending you out, and you
" A HARD LESSON " (5)
can expect the same kind of treatment that people would give to me." Would you let
me tell you this — that one of the things I've tried to practice in my relationship
with staff people is that I would never ask them to do something that I would not be
willing to do myself. I believe that's a good basic rule. By the same token, Jesus,
our Blessed Lord, is saying to these people whom He had recruited — "You're going to
go out, and I want you to be to those people as 1 would be to them . . . and that
means that you can expect the same kind of treatment that people would give to me."
And then He briefed them — He said, "In some cases even members of your own family
will turn against you. In some cases you will be even jailed; in some cases you won't
even get the time-of-day from people you've grown to love and to whom you want to mini-
ster. That's the kind of treatment I've gotten, that's the kind of treatment you're
going to get. If you want a title for this brief sermon, it could well be " A Hard Les-
son " — or — " The Lesson That Needs To Be Mastered. "
I don't know why it is, but we suffer in our day and age from what I call a
'bland brand' of Christianity, where we allow people to think that you can go through
life always with a perpetual smile on your face, and everything will be lovey-dovey —
and it just isn't so! I've told some of you this for a number of weeks now, that the
more critical problems in my ministry that I've ever had to face I'm facing right now.
And as I relate to some of you as your pastor, I can relate to some of you because I can
identify with some of the burdens that you have been bearing year after year! — and
they haven't gone away. I have little patience with those preachers who in our day al-
low people to believe that Christianity is just one grand slap or pat on the back, and
"Go your way, brother ~ everything is going to be alright no later than ten o'clock
tomorrow morning." It just doesn't happen that way. You read that 10th chapter of the
Gospel according to Matthew, laying it on the line.
No wonder the Apostle Paul, who took Jesus Christ as seriously as he did, could
say, "We have got to remember, we will suffer with him
. . .we will suffer with him we will suffer with him. . . .we must endure."
Let me go back and ask you this question again: What do you think it is to be
— To be a Christian is to be a learner . . . .
— To be a Christian is to be a follower
— To be a Christian is to be in your place to other people as Jesus Christ.
Said Jesus Christ, "I have asked you to come and to be with me, that you might learn of
me." Don't ever forget that - - "...so that you might be to other people as I^ want to
" A HARD LESSON " (6)
to be to them."
Now very quickly You say to yourself, there's a tremendous gap between Jesus
Christ and me - - my performance can never come up to His level! It's Impossible!
It's unreal! And to be lamented Is the fact that some people then very easily ad-
just to that, and never even try! But the basic admonition remains: "Be ye perfect
even as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Our Methodist friends make much of the doctrine of perfection. We don't talk
enough about it , even though we come down heavily on sanctif ication. But if I re-
member correctly, when a candidate for the ministry in the Methodist Church in years
gone by appeared before the bishop to be interrogated, and one of the questions that
may be put to him is this one, listen to it carefully:
" Are you striving after perfection ?"
....a classic question.
And there was that candidate who began to wriggle a bit, and squirm, realizing that
it's impossible to strive after perfection. So the bishop wisely accommodated him-
self to the level of the man in front of him by saying, "If you think that's an un-
fair question, if you think that's unreasonable to ask you, "Are you striving after
perfection?" them let me ask you this question," said the bishop "If you're
not striving after perfection, what are you striving after?"
So Jesus Christ says, "Go out into the world, remember who you are and whose
you are — you're my followers; and you be to other people as I am to you." It's
an awesome assignment. But what a compliment He paid them — as much as to say, "You
can do it! You can love — really you can! I made you with that capability. You
can believe in the goodness of people, honestly you can! And you can look for the
goodness of people, even as I am looking for the goodness in you! Honestly you can."
Well, that's the 10th chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew. It's quite
a chapter. It lays it on the line. It comes not only by way of challenge but it also
comes by way of encouragement. And if I've painted a dark picture of it, you must for-
give me, because this too remains as the bottom line:
— if we are faithful and if we suffer, if we endure —
then ultimately we will enjoy the blessing that God
has only for those who follow after Him.
Before each of us, then, there is an open door. You can't forever stay where you are,
you've got to move on to the next problem. That can be a very exciting thing about life,
and maybe some of us don't deserve to live another day if we can't recognize the possi-
"A HARD LESSON" (7)
bllity of that open door. Because the One who opens that door is also the One who
says, "I will never leave you, I will never forsake you." And He's the one who,),
as He opens the door, is always out there ahead of us, waiting for us.
This I most certainly believe.
(transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
St. Mary Magdalene July 22, 1984
" ABOUT A WOMAN - MARY MAGDALENE"
Grace, Mercy and peace from God
our Father and from His Son
Jesus Christ, our Blessed Lord.
All that you are about to hear this morning is inspired by the Gospel lesson
for the day and by the very fact that in the calendar of the Church, Sunday, July 22,
is set aside as the commemoration of a woman.
Now before anything else is said, because we are family, let me speak to you
very informally and let me relax for a moment and tell you that when I had this special
assignment two weeks ago at St. Benedict Roman Catholic Retreat Center, where a group
of Lutheran missionaries had assembled for a number of weeks prior to going overseas
for their assignment, I was to be their worship leader for the week.
There were all kinds of people present in that group of 35 adults, and as any-
one knows when he goes to be a speaker for the first time to a group with whom he's
had no prior relationship, you're never quite certain what kind of response or reaction
you're going to get. When I finished speaking the first time a young chap came up to
me. . .1 say young chap because presumably I'm old enough to be his grandfather. He
had finished his training, he had finished his theological training, he was being as-
signed overseas. Now understand, I conducted my first service, I made my presentation,
the benediction had been pronounced, I was about to walk away, and he came up to me and
I'm happy to tell you, and I don't say this vainly — we're all like this; he thanked me
for being there, and he said, "I listened to what you had to say . . . " Before I knew
it, he caught me completely off-guard by saying, "If you don't mind, I wish you'd watch
Now ordinarily people don't talk to me like that; and I tried to regain my compo-
sure as quickly as possible, and much to my surprise, what he had in mind was my sexist
language, because he was listening with a very critical ear, representing the generation
that he does. And unfortunately for me, evidently when I was speaking I didn't say as
often as I should have 'he-or-she' . . . he-or-she. . . .and my terms of course offended
him a bit because he felt I was neglecting women.
Well now, I hope you know how highly I regard women. I've fallen In love with
one and I've kept myself in love with one all of these years, and I know how important
women are in the work of the church, and in society. And it's not my intention in any
" ABOUT A WOMAN - MARY MAGDALENE " (2)
way to slight women in whatever vocabulary that I may use. You've got to remember, I'm
of the old school — for years and years and years we used one term that embraced every-
body But I thanked him, and with a bit of doing each morning thereafter 1 tried to re-
member what he had told me, and with some effort I had to say every time I spoke, "Now
whether he or she would do this," - - - and then with some effort also, instead of say-
ing mankind, I would say humankind . But I don't know in God's name that I'll ever get
around to saying, " Person the battle-stations!"
Don't make more of this than you should. I have a high regard for equality and
recognition, you know that. For some of us who have been using some style of language
for over a period of years, it isn't easily done overnight. Nor do we want to border
sometimes on the ridiculous. I think I satisfied him, honestly I do, because the last
two mornings that I spoke, how do you suppose I began? I began by saying, "I want to
talk to you this morning about two women, one good, one bad." I don't know how I satis-
fied him on that score. And the last morning we were together I said, "I want to speak
to you about three women today — happily enough, every single one of them good women."
This morning when I come to the sacred desk I want to talk to you about a woman,
and if you're to go back and examine the sermons that I've preached from this sacred
desk, on more than one occasion I've talked about women, because the Bible is filled
with women. The Bible talks about all kinds of women. This woman this morning well,
let me back up a bit. Be honest with me, as honest as you possibly can be. In the
calendar of the church, July 22 is set aside, remembering Mary Magdalene.
Knowing human nature as I do — and you're not much different — one of the very
first things that comes to your mind
— is the fact that she had been a prostitute...
— is the fact that she had been a fallen woman —
— is the fact that she gave her body for profit — .
How much she enjoyed it, I don't know; how much she hated it, I don't know; how many
times she despised men, who exploited her, I don't know. But I know there are such
things as harlots, I know that Mary Magdalene was one. She is in the Bible! I also
know that in the calendar of the church we don't forget her;
c?.r_s-f?r t-:: :'rs c'-v.::." -^e :'?r" ; -crr;^: ... ,.and I know that in the calendar of the
church we set aside one day in the course of the year to specifically remember her.
" ABOUT A WOMAN - MARY MAGDALENE "
You can read for yourself in the Bible references that are made to Mary of Magdala,
Incidentally, you're not forgetting, are you, that the Bible talks about four different
Marys - - - that would make an interesting series of sermons sometime — Four Marys
and how you might look forward to that sermon on Mary-the-prostitute Mary-the-harlot . .
. . . Mary of Magdala. Jesus was once at a dinner party; she graced the party! She embar-
rassed the host, she fawned over Jesus. She came with her two hands, hands that had em-
braced men who could have been like beasts, following the instincts of beasts. But she
took those two hands I think she massaged his back; she washed his feet, moistened
by the tears that came from her eyes. She used the tresses of her long hair like a towel
and all the while Simon- the-host was embarrassed. He couldn't quite figure it out:
what kind of a man is this? Simon could reason with himself: Have I been taken? Is
there something that I should have known about him? Where did he meet her? How well
does he know her? Wheat's going on here?
She had been a fallen woman ~ I can't strike it boldly enough for her . . . she'd
been a woman of the streets; she had a past; she'd been practicing it for some time. But
at some point in her life the eyes of Jesus Christ fell upon her. Something happened
that had never happened before. By and large, every single man who had looked upon her
with lust looked upon her for what he could get out of her, or how he could use her
like a person reaching for a toy and having his fun, and then dropping it, walking away.
I have a definition for prostitution that I've never read in a book: "a touch-and-go af-
fair" where you get, and then you leave and you feel no sense of obligation to
that person whatsoever.
She served her purpose. A man got what he wanted. Not so Jesus Christ. He looked
upon her with the eye, the like of which no man before had looked upon her ~ surely not
for what he could get, surely not for what he wanted to take. But for what he wanted to
give, for what he could offer....
— surely he looked upon her not as a woman with a
past, but as a woman with a future...
— surely he looked upon her not as somebody who
could be used, but as someone who could become useful....
No one had ever looked upon her like that. Please don't forget what I've just told you.
When He was here on earth He called people to be His disciples. To the best of my
knowledge He never called Mary Magdalene and said, "I want you to be my follower." But
He did call such people as Andrew. .. .Bartholomew. .. .Simon. .. .Jude. . .James. .. .John
Judas Iscariot - - and in every single one of them He saw a potential. He said, "You
" ABOUT A WOMAN - MARY MAGDALENE" (4)
come after me, I'm going to make an Investment in you. And when my earthly pilgrimage
is completed, I'm going to turn it over to you!" There was a final week in the life
of Jesus that led to the day when His body was placed in an empty grave
- - where do you find Andrew now?
— Simon Peter? . . . Matthew? . . .
Where do you find any one of that trio who seemed to be so close to Jesus, who on many
an occasion, when He passed by all the other nine. He'd say to "James, John, Peter —
stay a minute. I want to spend some very special time with you ..." Where were
they now? Only one, John, is found at the foot of the cross, the so-called 'beloved'
disciple. Who else? — a couple of women! — one of whom is Mary.
They place His body in the grave. Who is it who thinks about going to embalm
His body, or f iguaretively speaking, to anoint it, to take precious oils? I once very
briefly submitted to a newspaper a fictional article that dealt with the oils and the
perfumes that Mary had prepared to take to anoint the body of Jesuc . Wuere did she
get them? one of her lovers? What happened to him? — a fictional account, you see,
with which I dealt. That's beside the point. But in the Resurrection Garden, when no
one is around, who is it that makes brave and bold to go even by herself to be at the
grave? Mary! — Mary Magdalene. Say it again, the harlot, the prostitute, the fallen
woman. Once she was like that. The Church commemorates Mary of Magdala — a sinner,
child of the Devil - saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, who paid attention to her.
How are people saved? Not by removing ourselves at some detached distance, not
by ignoring the fact that they exist. They are saved when good people pay attention to
bad people and hope and pray that the good that's in the bad will one day dominate.
That's why I've come to this sacred desk this morning — happy as all get-out to talk
to you about a woman — a good woman .... once a bad woman, but a good woman, who when
nobody else was around, there she was. Which leads me to say to you as I walk away from
this sacred desk -- and don't you dare ever forget it — every saint has his past... every
sinner has his future. This I most certainly believe.
A * A *
MAY THE peace of God that passeth all
understanding keep your heart and minds
through Qirist Jesus. Amen.
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost July 29, 1984
' ' THE GOD WHO IS NEVER LESS THAN GOD ' '
We are so busy, God, there are so
many things that claim our times.
But for a little while, now, in this
place may we give some measure of un-
divided concern for the interpretation
of your Word. Through Jesus Christ,
Thy Son our Lord, who when He came,
came preaching. Amen.
The title for the sermon is important. May I suggest that you listen carefully
as it's announced, and perchance again and ever so often as the sermon progresses you
will allow it to loom on the horizon of your mind. This, now, is the title for today's
sermon: " The God Who Is Never Less Than God. " There's a text, of course. And the
text, brief as it may be, is inspired by an entire book in the Bible — it's the 9th
verse of the 11th chapter of the prophecy of Hosea:
" For I am God, and not man, the
Holy One in your midst ..."
A number of years ago when I had my own special time before the altar, recalling
the night when holy hands were placed upon my head more than four decades ago, and I
was set apart (to use a precious figure of speech) as a minister of the Word and Sacra-
ment - - I remember with particular gratitude that congregation in north central Penn-
sylvania who were the first to call me "Pastor." I place a high value upon that word.
A pastor is a particular person. On occasion the Church has asked me to speak
to people in their final preparation for the Gospel ministry, and invariably I have
taken as my subject: "What It Means To Be A Pastor." The main outline of what I say
to them I'll tell you now. You may think it to be a play on words, and if so, justifi-
ably, I dare say. A pastor, I do believe, is God's particular person, for a particular
purpose, to a particular people, in a particular place, at a particular time.
Bear with me when I suggest to you that there is no other person quite like a
pastor in our society, regardless of the agency, the institution, the organization or
the fellowship that you may have in mind. For properly understood, a pastor is one
called by God to be a shepherd and a bishop of a particular group of people. It is
a unique relationship.
" THE GOD WHO IS NEVER LESS THAN GOD " (2)
You can readily understand, then, why when I was especially remembering my ordi-
nation, that I would look back and think of that congregation, the first ever to call
me "Pastor." You will excuse me if after all these years I can still speak of them
with nothing less than deep affection and gratitude, even as I am grateful for the
trust and respect that you've given me these past twenty-eight years. But you see —
whatever I brought to you in 1956, they helped get me ready for you from 1940 until
1956, and even before 1940. You see, they were the ones — I can hardly believe it —
who were willing to take me fresh from divinity school, still in my early 20's, and
even before I was ordained, to make me their acting pastor. Now as I stand before
you, willing to be perfectly transparent as I have been on occasion, what in heaven's
name did I know about life? little more than twenty years of age. How could I,
at that tender age, be so bold as to go to that sacred desk in Messiah's Church, South
Williamsport , Pennsylvania, where a man much beloved by every one of them, old enough
to be my grandfather, had preached to them for almost half a century; who when at age
75 would stand in that pulpit — he could interpret God's Word, he could interpret
God's precious truth, not only on the basis of what he had studied from the sacred
page, but with the fullness of his many years. You can readily understand when I say
this to you — he could not only say: "This I believe" but he could say: "This I know."
But there I stood, and there I preached, doing the best I could on the basis of what I
had read, doing the best I could on the basis of what God could reveal to me within
the limitation of my years, on the basis of what I had observed in people.
So there I stood, and went to that sacred desk Sunday after Sunday, week after
week, month after month and one year that led into another until perhaps a decade had
passed — and listen now — with nary a cloud upon the horizon a decade of bless-
ing, with never a time when my soul was tried to the very depth. .. .don' t misunderstand
me, with never a time when I had to fight in order to go on believing . . . never a
time when I got mad at God. More than a dozen years would pass until Winifred and I
had first-hand encounter within our own family circle of sickness that led to death.
And all the while, in that dozen of years, you see, I was ministering to people who
had lost loved ones. But it had never happened to us. And then when death came —
what until then did I know about death! — a fracture within a family circle, an empty
chair, a vacant place? When I struggled along with it as best I could with Winifred's
mother, I said, "How long is it going to take you to make the adjustment?" — she said
to me, "I don't know that I'll ever make it because I still wait for him to come up the
"THE GOD WHO IS NEVER LESS THAN GOD" (3)
lane." What, until then, did I know of death? And yet again and ever so often there
were before me in that congregation those grieving who were yearning for comfort and
consolation which my word as God's spokesperson were meant to convey.
Many a time — and here again I'm perfectly willing to be transparent among you —
many a time I asked God to forgive me, as I most certainly believe He did and has, be-
cause He is an understanding God. As I remembered when I had not yet been ordained
and I was twenty-four years of age, and they had trusted me with a pastoral ministry,
and I was called to conduct a funeral service for a woman, perhaps 86 - 84 years of
age, I've forgotten which... they had no children, there was only her husband now, no
living relative. I conducted the service. I remember how I stood at the grave, and
as we walked away, this 86-year-old man, old enough to be my grandfather, said to me,
"I feel as though I've been cut in two. Pastor, I feel as though half of me has been
taken away." I'm reasonably sorry to tell you this, that whatever I said to him I
said falteringly and with a hallow ring. I was yet to be married. What did I know
on the basis of my experience what he was saying to me? - - - "I feel as though I have
been cut in two, as though half of me is gone 1 feel like a half-person."
I think I can tell you this, that if I were ministering to that person today, with
44 years of married life that I've shared with Winifred, and in light of the deep con-
versation that we occasionally have, soberly, realistically thinking about the facts,
that that day will come when one of us will remain. I can understand what it means
when he said, "I feel as though half of me has been taken away."
With a seriousness that is far more than jest, frequently I have lamented the
fact that one does not begin his or her first work with twenty years experience. Ex-
perience is what life is all about . Experience is what we're born without! Experience
is the time that must be endured, that must be experienced, that must be lived through
in order to learn, in order to identify with people in a particular time of need, condi-
tion or circumstance.
When I, a pastor and a son-in-law, endeavored to comfort Winifred's mother when
Winifred's father died, nothing that I could say could compare when Winifred's Aunt
Emma came to Winifred's mother and said, having been made a widow herself three years
earlier, as she called Winifred's mother by name and said, "Now you understand what I've
been going through."
You have been very kind to endure this lengthy introduction. You're not forgetting
the title of the sermon, are you? — "The God Who Is Never Less Than God." Now all this
is simply to suggest that when I speak to you these days, particularly these past months.
" THE GOD WHO IS NEVER LESS THAN GOD " (4)
I do bring, I honestly believe, to every sermon the impact of something other than
just three or four years of academic pursuit freshly coming off the hill of the
school designed to make people ready to preach, with my diploma still yet to be
framed. There is no substitute for that preaching, I dare say, that is born from
experience. Because I do believe this, I approach this desk in recent years with
more earnest preparation than I have ever given before not that I have tried to
be slack at an earlier time. And surely when I come to this sacred desk as you allow
me to come, I come with a sense of humility and pure gratitude that God should spare
me these days for this purpose.
Now with this rather lengthy introduction let me read for you that passage of
Scripture which would never have come to us — you're not forgetting, are you, I
have been talking about experience , I have been talking about the testimony that's
to be valid only as experience supports it. I'm going to read for you a passage of
Scripture that would never have come to us, you would never have found it in the
Bible, if that man Rosea had not had his experience. . . . and on the basis of his
experience with his family, on the basis with his understanding of God and the way
God looks upon us as a family, on the basis of his own first-hand encounter with life
. . . you beware of any preacher who stands at a sacred desk and gives you religion
that's a second-hand experience. Rosea 's was a first-hand encounter with life — not
as he had dreamed it, not as he had fanticized it, not as he believed it ought to be,
- - but as he responded realistically to what he had encountered. It was something
that was born of the very stuff of life! - out of his own soul.
You can pick almost any section in Rosea equally sublime. Will you remember it -
the 11th chapter: He's picturing God in human terms. What other terms do we have to
use . . .
— he's thinking of God as a father
— he's thinking of the Children of Israel as his family,
he's recounting a bit of history
— he recalls how they were in bondage, they were down in Egypt
And God who is never less than God is a God who has always had the continuing concern .
He is never a God who says, "I don't much care." And Rosea has God saying, "When
Israel was a child I loved him 1 called him out of Egypt, my son.!" He goes on to
say, reminding us that when they get into the promised land and things became better,
they became much more interested in other things, and troubled as he is, somewhere in
Rosea before this 11th chapter when he refers to Ephraim, or eph-ra-eem as the Chil-
dren of Israel, "Let them go!" There comes a time when anyone who loves has to let
" THE GOD WHO IS NEVER LESS THAN GOD " (5)
them go. Psychologists and psychiatrists and therapists delight in telling us: "time
and space" - - time and space - - time and space - - - it is important" . , . and it is !
And God is always giving us time and space. Scripture reminds us of this when He says
"Ephraim, let him go!" and then as though Hosea pictures God standing there, put-
ting his hand on his chin in much the same manner as maybe Rembrandt pictures Saint
Paul with his hand on his forehead - - "Why, I'm the one who taught Israel to walk, I
took my people up in my arms. They would not acknowledge it, they didn't know that I
cared for them, I drew them to me with affection and love. 1 picked them up and held
them to my cheek, I bent down to them and I fed them." That's the way Hosea out of
his experience is picturing God in His relationship with us, because essentially we're
the new Children of Israel, we are the people of God. And God is saying, "They're
not responding as they should." And here is the magnificent, superb, the sublime way
by which Hosea tells us about a God who is never less than God, because God talking
aloud, so it would be, says, "How can I give them up? How can I let them go?",.. and
the words of the text: "I am God! I'm not man. I am the Holy One in their midst."
Remember it, please don't forget it, God is never less than God. The God of
Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God who dealt so patiently with the Children of
Isradl was never less than a God of love and a God of patience. The God of Abraham
and Isaac and Jacob, the God who is the father of our Lord Jesus Christ is never less
than God — a God of love. It's a seeking love; He is always looking for us.
I get impatient with people who say, "Have you found God?" Don't talk like that!
God's not lost! We're the ones who get lost. And we happen to have a God who keeps
looking for us, a God of love. And when He looks for us He has this continuing con-
cern — never detached, never completely abandoning us. Hosea puts it so marvelously,
"I'm not man." How do you and I behave? When people behave as we think maybe they
ought not to behave? How do we behave when we make bold to sit in judgment? We blame
them. God doesn't spend His energy blaming people. This God who is never less than
God doesn't allow Himself to be crippled by spending energy blaming people.
Every preacher wants to be remembered. I'm just as human as the next one. After
I'm no longer here, I'd like some of you to remember me as the person who came to this
desk for 28 years at least, and kept talking to you about the God who is never less
than God, who keeps loving us — not blaming us — but loving us.
And because He provides us that kind of an environment. He wants us always to be
the children of love. And what is it to be a child of love? It's to pass that love
on to somebody else. And you remember my definition for love, don't you? — to love is
always to meet the need in the life of another person. Hosea, thank you for reminding
"THE GOD WHO IS NEVER LESS THAN GOD" (6)
us what none of us dare ever forget : the God who is the father of our Lord Jesus Christ
is never less than God . . . which means we're meant to be never less than His children.
This I most certainly believe.
May the peace of God that passeth
all understanding keep your
hearts and minds in Christ
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Eighth Sunday of Pentecost August 5, 1984
GLORY ! HALLELUJAH !
GRACE, Mercy and peace from God
our Father and from His Son Jesus
Christ, our Blessed Lord. Amen.
On more than one occasion when Pastor David and I might be together, driving
around making calls, he'd slip Into his cassette radio a tape, either of an experi-
ence he had encountered where there was a black preacher and a black congregation,
or whether It was the tape that he had purchased. Every now and then there was a
particular lilt In his voice when he'd say, "Pop, listen to this one!" And I must
tell you I was absolutely enthralled at what I heard coming from the pulpit of a
black preacher. There are some people who maintain that today , If you ever want to
make certain that you're going to hear the Gospel, head for some black congregation.
I am pleased to tell you that on occasion I've had the good fortune, when Mr.
Cofleld was our Senior Custodian, to be with his worshiping group and once or twice
he asked me to preach. And I've never had an experience quite like It - -
"Right on, brother!" . . . "Amen! — you tell 'em!"
And the more they told me that, the longer I spoke! So no wonder you remain quiet!
Ah, you got It, didn't you!
But every now and then that preacher would stop, I recall one tape In particular,
there would be a song. This title I remember, I don't recall all the words of It, but
you'll recognize the title: "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen! Glory! Hallelujah!"
As long as I can remember, whenever I've heard the title of that song I can never quite
figure It out. Really now, how anyone with so much misery, having encountered so much
trouble In one's life, would be able to sing about It and be able to say "Glory! Halle-
The sermon that you're about to hear this morning is inspired by the Epistle for
the day, the second Lesson that Col. Oestereich read. It's the 8th chapter of the
Epistle, a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to Christians who lived in the Imperial
City of Rome. It's quite a chapter. I've always been Impressed by it, so much so that
not so long ago. In a monthly newsletter to our Prayer Partners I encouraged them to
read it fervently and repeatedly. It's an absolutely magnificent statement of the
Christian experience. And naturally when we gather at Bethany for our Bethany Fellow-
' ' GLORY ! HALLELUJAH ! ' ' (2)
ship, Marion Anderson would occasionally include it as well.
It's in that 8th chapter of Romans that Paul says some things that are rather hard
for us to believe. And yet as far as this morning's text is concerned, some of us
won't have any difficulty at all in understanding what he's talking about. I've taken
two verses from that entire section that Colonel Oestereich read, and here they are,
the 22nd and 24th verses of the 8th chapter of Romans :
"We know that the whole creation has been groaning in
travail together until now; and not only the creation
but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the
Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons,
the redemption of our bodies."
"... the whole creation groans ..." It's as though the
world had one grand belly-ache! (that's a free translation) And as a student of the
Scriptures as I've dealt with this passage of Scripture, I've come to the conclusion
that Paul is telling us what some of us forget Paul is also telling us to get
ready for some of us may have to experience that which we've never experienced before.
Paul is trying to make plain to us that on the agenda of life, for any person, any-
where, sooner or later he might, or she might be in the position to sing, "Nobody
knows the trouble I've seen!"
I'm fully aware of the fact, of course I am, that many of us live today in a high-
ly protected and sheltered way, we really do! Any number of us haven't much experience
with handicaps and hardships and misery itself. You see, I belong to a generation that
remembers when these two words were introduced to our vocabulary: " wonder drugs " — and
off we go to the physician with our disease or our affliction, he'd prescribe one of
these so-called 'wonder drugs' . . . we'd go to the pharmacist where he'd give us per-
haps the medication itself . . . and in a very remarkable period of time some sem-
blence of recovery set in. And any number of people today know nothing at all about
the misery and the pain that people physically afflicted fifty years ago had to endure
and hastened their death.
Thanks to modern technology, all the comforts we enjoy that free us from incon-
venience and hardship - - so much so — be honest now! — let somebody tell you that
you're not going to have a supply of water for six hours, and some of you begin to
panic; let there be a power outage for as much as three hours, and some people don't
know how to handle it — suddenly the television is silent, suddenly nothing happens
when you turn on the radio, and you might have nothing to do but talk to the person
" GLORY! HALLELUJAH! " (3)
who happens to be in the room. And some people don't even know how to handle that.
Thanks to modern technology, we have been freed from any number of things that
5, 6 decades ago people had to endure in a troublesome way, day after day. So it may
take a bit of doing for some of us, honestly now, to appreciate what the Apostle Paul
is saying and as the Negro song echoes: "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen."
In Paul's case, he was speaking from first-hand experience. Read somewhere — in
Corinthians — not that he's complaining, honestly, and not that he's berating it. But
he does give us a recital of some of his misery, presumably for our edification, and
presumably to stabilize us when we might have to endure only a fraction of what he had
to experience. One of his chapters, he goes down the list — how many times he was
beaten, and how he was beaten, and where he was beaten
— how many times he was ship-wrecked...
— the times he was abandoned....
the times he had to be exposed to the elements without
any degree of comfort by way of clothing and shelter.
I remember as a Sunday School youngster going through my Bible, looking at the
pictures. And to this very day whenever I think of the Apostle Paul I'll remember this
one: there's that typical Palestine house made out of limestone, two storeys, one storey
maybe — flat roof here are his friends, with their ropes. They put him in a bas-
ket - - they're lowering him down steadily and stealthily so that he might be able to
escape the people who had put a price on his head —
" Nobody knows the trouble I've seen!"
...that's what the Apostle Paul is
saying when he writes in that 8th chapter of the letter to the Christians who lived
in Rome, when he says, "The whole creation, no matter where I look, I can speak out of
my own experience — no matter where I look, I can see it: Trouble. .. .Trouble. . .Trouble
....Trouble — everywhere, and always spelled with a capital T.
Now, for God's sake, remember this, whatever you understand the Bible to be, it
deals with life realistically. It tells it as it is. And page after page after page
Trouble is written is written, largely and boldly. Said the Apostle Paul: "Let's get
clearly squared off in our minds, let's zero in on it — no matter where you look, the
whole creation, everywhere, is groaning."
Now, I think there are two things that need to be said regarding trouble. There
" GLORY! HALLELUJAH!" (4)
are some people who can't handle trouble because they don't accept the fact that it
could happen. They have been free of it for a reasonable period of time. I'm amazed
how many people there are who can reach 50 years of age without ever having the kind
of thing that some people can't cope with at 35. Not everyone can be like well,
let me tell you about her. I'm sorry I can't tell you her first name, I'd give any-
thing if I could remember it, I have been trying to remember it all morning. I can
tell you her maiden name — she was the Ockmoody (?) girl who married the Ludwig boy.
She had four children, two sons, two daughters. Mrs. Ludwig made her living off of
a truck patch.
Now for those of you who don't know what a truck patch is, it was a modest acre-
age that people tilled and cultivated from which they could market their vegetables
to the community. They made a very simple living that way from their truck patch.
Hers was located there in South Williamsport , not far from the Susquehanna River.
It's the Susquehanna River that divides Williamsport proper from South Williamsport.
And every now and then the Susquehanna would overflow its banks.
I, as a young pastor, went to see Mrs. Ludwig (whose first name I can't remember),
and when I went to see her I saw her walking around in her bare feet, trying to reclaim
as best she could, with her shovel and her stool, what top soil remained after the Sus-
quehanna River overflowing had brought some devastation on her plot of ground. Her
livlihood depended upon the quality of that top soil. I, a young pastor, tried to com-
misserate with her. What do you suppose she said to me? "0, Pastor, it is alright.
If it wouldn't be the flood it would have been something else." What a marvelous philo-
sophy! — to be able to accept the fact that around the corner, any hour now. Trouble.
I'm not built that way. I wish I were. That's why I have been paying more than
ordinary attention to what the Apostle Paul says. He's giving me to understand that
it's a fact, that it's inescapable, that it is unavoidable, that sooner or later it's
going to appear on your agenda. And it happens everywhere. Now that's one thing I can
The second thing I can tell yoi: is this: the troubles with which we have to deal
can be caused either by ourselves or by other people. Any number cf people .create -
their own problems. Any number of people, by virtue of their own personality or their
temperament, may permit themselves to create a situation that can plague them and cause
them problems. We do this sometimes in our society; we do it sometimes in our ignorance,
" GLORY! HALLELUJAH! " (5)
I'm student enough of history to remember how a half decade ago or more, when immensely
fertile plains here in our United States became a vast and barren dust-bowl. I'm stu-
dent enough of history and human nature to know exactly how it happened. As a matter
of fact, 800 million acres of forest had been reduced by half within the space of a
hundred years, and the result was a drastic change of climate. It's been said that
various dry spells dried up the land, the soil turned to dust, the winds blew it away,
thousands of farmers were ruined and became destitute. Then when at least the rain
came, there was no vegetation to hold the water which caused devastating floods. All
of that trouble was caused by people who did what they did and could not look ahead and
realize the consequences that might be coming one day from what they themselves had done.
Then there is the kind of trouble that we have to deal with that's caused by some-
body else and we're caught up in it. We have had no control of it, but we become part
of the picture, we're part of the scene. We happen to be there. Now please, as earn-
estly as I can say this, whether we bring trouble on ourselves or whether we suffer
trouble because of other people, trouble is trouble.
But wouldn't it be a terrible thing if that's all I had to say to you from this
sacred desk this morning? But you will remember, won't you, I began by saying, "Nobody
knows the trouble I've seen - - - Glory! Hallelujah! " Now I think I know why that
person who could shout like that could shout like that, because that person was echo-
ing the Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul in this marvelous 8th chapter of Romans also
says, in addition to what text you've heard: "We are saved by hope"! This is also the
same chapter that has that magnificent verse of Scripture — God help us if we forget
it — "All things work together for good to those who love the Lord, to those who are
called according to his purpose." It's this passage of Scripture, let God continue to
speak to us as Paul writes about trouble. It's a fact of life, it's inescapable, it
is unavoidable. Everybody, sooner or later, has to encounter it. And there is no way
in this world in which we can ever allow ourselves to believe that trouble can be writ-
ten off. We live in an imperfect world, we live in a world that's made up of imperfect
people, we live in a world that is peopled by folks who are stained by original sin.
Not only that, says the Apostle Paul, from the very beginning, from the dawn of crea-
tion, from the day of Adam and Eve — the whole creation has been groaning. And even
those of us, he says, (if I may give you a free translation) who know something of the
Spirit of God and are already touched by the Spirit of God, we suffer, we hurt.
" GLORY! HALLELUJAH!" (6)
But says the Apostle Paul, remember this: while we live in a world where these
problems will remain, to the very day that we die, and trouble will always be around
somebody's corner, we can endure it because we can be saved by hope, because ultimate-
ly God has the last word. And God's word, no matter when it's spoken, is always a
good word, and the word to be trusted.
This came in yesterday's mail - - so much happened yesterday I didn't have time
to read it until I opened the letter at 6:30 this morning
"If you believe that every prayer
is heard by God above,
Then you will share the miracles
that come through faith and love;
If you believe each heart-felt hope
is sent to Heaven's door.
Then you will know God surely has
some brighter day in store.
If you believe God really cares,
then He will guide you through;
And all the blessings of His love
will bring new strength to you."
This I do believe.
(transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Raymond StiaHeen
The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost August 12, 1984
"TO PRAY ARIGHT"
GRACE, Mercy and Peace from God our
Father and from His Son Jesus Christ,
our Blessed Lord. Amen.
You know very well that I wouldn't want to embarrass you, rest assured I won't
do it. But I could do it. Suppose I were to ask you: There were three Lessons read
this morning by Suzanne, according to custom. The second Lesson consisted of only
two verses. I won't even ask you what they were, but I could be tempted (but relax,
I won't) - - I could be tempted to ask you:
— what did those two verses mean?
— what was said in those two verses?
Theyte from that marvelous 8th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, verses 26 and
27. I'd be less than honest if I didn't tell you that in anticipation of standing
at this particular at this sacred desk I have been asking myself every time I sit
down to work on this sermon: What shall I make of these two verses?
— what is the writer really trying to say to us?
...and if by the grace of God I can interpret these verses under the influence of
the Holy Spirit, to a waiting congregation, what is it that I should say? Now you
understand my frame of mine, as I stand before you now, awed by the responsibility
to interpret God's precious truth?
Well, let me share with you some of my reactions. But first — you'd better
hear those verses again:
" Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities:
for we know not what we should pray for as we
ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession
for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what
is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh inter-
cession for the saints according to the will of God. "
Unless you're a student of the Scriptures, unless you've taken time to sit down
earnestly and pay attention very, very carefully - - as of this moment, unless you
are a student of the Scriptures, you need some measure of enlightenment.
Well now, if you don't mind, let me begin in this manner. As I've studied
"TO PRAY ARIGHT" (2)
this passage I'm tremendously impressed by the fact that Paul is being very honest
with us. He's my hero, he's my giant in the faith. Every single one of us needs
giants, every single one of us needs heroes. .. .every single one of us needs people
to be put on pedestals. We need people to whom we look up.
I've always looked up to Paul, and I thank God that he was the kind of man
that he was, that he did the kind of thing that he did. And wherever the Christian
influence will be spread, the name of Paul will have to be dealt with and referred
to with affection and esteem. Make no mistake about that.
And I'm included among some people who'd be willing to he as expansive in
my mood as to say that perhaps no one — who can tell? — but perhaps no one has
ever lived who was ever a more earnest follower of Jesus Christ than this born-
again man, Paul, who counted his mission in life to go anywhere , everywhere , at
any price, to do nothing less than to talk about Jesus Christ — crucified, risen,
glorified - - he went placarding the world for Jesus Christ:
"I know nothing except Jesus Christ."
...he's the man who said, "For me to live is Christ! Christ lives in me!"
He's my hero.... my giant.
But I need to say this to you very parenthetically, when I study the Scrip-
tures I'm also grateful that the Scriptures tell it just as it is. The Bible is a
very honest book. It tells us good things about bad people, and it also tells us
some of the weaknesses of the good people. That's one reason why some of us trust
the Scriptures, it's very honest. So when I come to this passage of Scripture
that Suzanne read for us as the second Lesson for the Day, my first reaction:
Paul - - you, too!
Why do I say that?
Paul — you have the same problem that I have!
— you, my giant in the faith!
— you whom I believed could handle anything !
You see, what some of you don't know, when during the Lenten season I gave
you a School in Prayer, when all of our Bible studies dealt with the Biblical con-
cept of prayer - - I was needing that more than you may realize, because in my
prayer life in recent weeks and months an entirely new and different dimension has
I can't remember when I didn't pray, honestly I can tell you that. And
two of the strongest influences on my life came from my grandmother, my maternal
"TO PRAY ARIGHT" (3)
grandmother as a child I passed by her bedroom door
• o she spoke only Arabic, she couldn't speak a single
word of English, and I was very young, but young enough
to have an impression made on me . . . her door was ajar...
she was a devout Roman Catholic. . .and the only memory that
I have of that woman has left a mark on the fabric of my
soul ... as I passed by the door I saw her sitting up in
bed, with her nightgown on, and her night-cap (this goes
back more than 60-some years ago).... and she had her rosary
in her hands, she was saying her prayers.
To this very day before I get out of bed in the morning I say my prayers.
1 can't remember when prayer wasn't a very real thing to me. But in recent weeks
and months there has been an entirely new and different dimension added to my prayer
experience, so that I can identify with Paul so easily now — of course it may be
because my giant, my hero, my man-on-the-pedestal — what's he saying in this verse
"We don't know how to pray — likewise the
Spirit helps us in our weakness for we do
not know how to pray as we ought."
What an admission to make. We are taught to pray.
Jesus Christ realizes how essential it is that we pray because that made the
difference in His life. You never really see Jesus Christ until you see Him as a
Man-of-prayer. And one of the disciples — you remember I told you this — makes
the discovery of his life when he caught Jesus praying, and he came and said,
"Jesus, teach us!" . . . and Jesus stopped right then and there and said, "All right,
whenever you pray - - " And then He gave us a pattern for praying. It's so essential
for us that we be praying persons. And this same Jesus who taught us to pray, also
said, "Ask, and it will be given to you
Seek, and you shall find....
Knock, and it shall be opened to you and if you ask anything
in my name, you'll get it"!
And I've taken Him as His word, and I've asked. And I honestly believe I was asking
in His name. And I haven't gotten it!
I've learned one thing through this whole encounter with praying, and that
is, you have to take certain things that Jesus said and balance them out. Sometimes
we fail to do that. This same Jesus who said:
"Ask . . . seek . . . find . . . knock — and you'll get it"
"TO PRAY ARIGHT" (4)
is the same Jesus who said to them, "You can't have it." That's in the Bible too!
Here was the request of James and John, who couldn't think of anything more wonder-
ful — and you couldn't eitheri — I would not fault anyone if in the presence of
Jesus Christ you would have done what they did, and said, "When it's all over and
you're in the Kingdom, we love you so much, we cherish the thought of it — we
want to be as near to you as we possibly can. Jesus, tell us you'll do it for us!"
....and they were His friends who were asking that question....
And Jesus said, "No." It's in the Bible! They were praying, they were asking.
James, said by some to be brother, or half-brother, to our Lord — he's the one
who says as he writes in the Bible — "Sure, you pray. And you really have trouble
in your praying because you ask amiss" - - this is the part of Scriptural truth with
which we need to deal. It isn't that we don't pray, it's that we don't know how to
And that's because most of us are human, as over against being spiritual
in regard to our personality and our outlook on life. The person who thinks in terms
only of his humanity and not of his spirituality, when he prays is always asking
something from God for himself or herself.......
— when I'm sick I want God to make me well
— when I'm in dire circumstances I want God to free me and
get me out of that bondage, whatever it may be
— when I find out that there are people who don't like me, I
ask God to get into those people and to make them like me....
— when I'm in a situation with which I cannot cope, I have to ask
God to do something about it — to extricate me
....that's the natural man who is praying. The natural man, when he's praying, is
always trying to get God to be bent to my^ level. Honestly, I know you that well,
and I know myself that well !
But there is such a thing as the spiritual person. Now when that person
prays, it isn't that he wants God to bend to his level and to answer according to
the way that person wants God to answer. But when the spiritually-minded person
prays, he prays as Jesus prayed - - that what's God's will should be accomplished,
that what God has in mind might come to pass. That's where you and I also have
some problems. That's why some of us can't pray aright, because we don't have the
wisdom of God. We can't see it from God's point of view, we can only see it from
our limited point of view. The frank admission may have to be, as Paul himself,
my giant, my hero, my man-on-the-pedestal said - - "We really don't know how to
"TO PRAY ARIGHT" (5)
But that doesn't mean we should quit praying! Of course not! But there
happens to be one who, when we fail to pray, takes over in our behalf, and I'll
tell you a bit about that later.
My heart is always warmed when as the Pastor of this congregation I find
people coming inside the church during the week to pray. Would to God I had the
time and energy to be down here and open the church every morning, say at 7:00
o'clock — or maybe every evening at 10:00 o'clock — just to be here and to let
anyone know that the doors are open and that the person is free to come, at other
hours, when the church is ordinarily closed. .. ^hoping of course that they might take
advantage of the opportunity to come when the church ordinarily is open. Human as
we are, we need to be found in certain places where it's made easier for us to think
the thoughts of God. Human as we are, we need to be in certain places where we're
surrounded by things that remind us of God's presence and His truth - - the Bible,
the Ceoss, the altar - - - my heart is strangely warmed when I find somebody in
here praying. And as you might know, I try to keep a respectful distance when some-
one is approaching the Throne of Grace.
But I remember and remember so well the day I passed by the door of the
Chapel of The Grateful Heart, and saw a person who was a member of this parish even
before I came, standing there in the middle aisle I could sense the desperation
of the burden. As respectfully as I could I walked up and put my hand on his shoulder,
He turned to me, and he told me exactly why he was there. And I recognized at once
the burden that was weighing him down.... and in all honesty, complete candor, all
he could say was "Pastor, I've come to pray and I don't know how to pray." That's
our dilemma! When we're honest, and try to pray spiritually from God's perspective
we really don't even know how to talk to God in a way that God will honestly allow
us to talk to Him, because we're so stained by original sin and we can be so selfish
in our prayers.
But the glorious thing about this passage of Scripture from this person whom
I placed on my pedestal — Paul says, "Sure, I don't know how to pray, but I have
good news for you. The Spirit takes over and the Spirit intercedes - - God knows
that we don't know how to pray as we ought to pray." So God keeps Himself in the
I reach back into the past every now and then to share something with you.
It could have been some 35 years ago now, when I laid her husband to rest in Wild-
wood Cemetery in the northern part of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. She and her hus-
band had grown up in my home town, I knew them and knew them well. And I knew the
"TO PRAY ARIGHT" (6)
problems with which they had to deal in life. I also knew that he was the joy^ of
her life I also knew he was the source of strength. He was taken suddenly, with-
out any warning. And her whole life collapsed. She couldn't possibly think of life
without him, especially when she realized the burden of responsibility which she'd
have to carry by herself, a particular family problem that he had master-minded in
dealing with it, and now he was gone. Bewildered and confused and beaten as
she walked away from that grave to the waiting car I can still hear, what in my
judgment I can tell you was a perfect prayer - - "0, God" ... a couple more steps
we took "0, God!" and that was the gro aning of her soul
...she reached the car door: "0, God!"
She didn't know how to pray aright— in bewilderment and in confusion, but she was
praying the perfect prayer ~ the groaning of her soul that was crying out to God.
In a certain sense we're all as children in God's sight. You reach a certain
age - - let me prepare you for it - - when you go back into the past , and you remem-
ber. I remember so well when our boys were children, I remember so well when David
and Jon, as tiny tots, would waken Winifred and me as we were sleeping by their cry-
ing. - - was it a nightmare? Something had interrupted their sleep — we were wakened
by the sobbing and the crying of a child. And with the instinct that belongs to a
father and a mother, either one of us might get out of bed and go and cradle that
child in our arms, a child that's sobbing, without uttering a word, but crying. And
with whatever comfort we could give as a father or a mother, that comfort came as we
took over . We're all as children in God's sight, we're all as children crying in the
night. And God takes over.
That's what Paul's telling us - - sure, you don't know how to pray aright!
You're not that good to begin with, and you don't know enough, and you don't see the
whole picture. And furthermore, you have this difficulty that you get this foolish
notion as though when you pray God's going to answer immediately: "Yes" - - - "No" - -
as though He's on the other end of the telephone. And God doesn't answer that way.
God answers in the course of events! It's only a little later on that His hand is
revealed and we see it. But human as we are, we want to keep God as though He's on
the other end of the telephone - - we're not going to hang up until we get a "Yes"
out of God.
What did Jesus say we should call God? — "Father" - - parent — a father and a
mother don't deserve to be called 'Father' and 'Mother' if they jump through the hoops
every time a child asks for something. They're worthy of the name only if when they
answer, they answer according to their wisdom, as well as their love. So in this tre-
"TO PRAY ARIGHT " (7)
mendous two verses of Scripture Paul's saying, "It's really good news I have for
you! Sure, you don't know how to pray aright, but God knows what's best! And He'll
pray in your behalf if you trust Him that His will may be done.
Now let me tell you this if you don't mind, I've never wanted to be less than
personal and honest with you from the very first day that I became your Pastor, And
I've never hesitated to be transparent. Some years back, I've forgotten when it was,
I had a problem that was more than I could handle. That happens frequently, but that
was the first time in my life that I ever had one as serious as that. And so I
turned the ignition key and drove all the way down from Williamsport, Pennsylvania,
to Gettysburg, where I needed to sit with my mentor in the faith, Harvey Daniel Hoover,
the man who had married Winifred and me, the man who baptized David, the man who bap-
tized Jon. Fortunately, he was available. We went to his study. I immediately felt
relaxed because his study was more cluttered than mine!
With his great big pastor's heart he encouraged me to speak. We put the problem
in front of us. And then he did something that I hope I never forget — he said, "Let's
think about it together. With whatever wisdom God gives us, let's try to think about
it as earnestly and as objectively as we can."
....and after we had done that, he said, "Now, Raymond, we're going to
pray." . . .
He didn't say, "Get down on your knees, Raymond — he didn't have to tell me that be-
cause he was getting down on his knees. And on our knees together, he turned to me and
he said, "Now, Raymond, you go ahead and pray first." And I did. And I laid bare my
soul to God, and 1 tried to tell God exactly as I thought, and presumably as maybe I
thought it ought to be answered. Because honestly I felt I was praying in Jesus' name.
And then he prayed. He said, "Rajnnond, now I'll pray." - - the substance of the
words: "Dear Heavenly Father, I'm also your child, and I believe my prayer to be an
honest prayer." But rooted and grounded in Scripture, Dr. Hoover concluded his prayer
in this manner, as he must have remembered the words of the Apostle Paul —
"Heavenly Father, we really don't know how to pray aright, so give my
brother Raymond, and give me as well, the assurance that if you can't
hear his prayer, and you can't hear mine, then hear the prayer that
Jesus, sitting at your right hand, is offering this very moment in
And therein lies our hope. Cradled as children in the arms of God in our utmost need,
if we will trust Him - - He takes over! And in the course of events we discover His
answer as we allow ourselves to be bent according to His purpose and suited according
to His will. This I most certainly Believe.
* A * *
(This sermon transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Tenth Sunday After Pentecost August 19, 1984
" ALL THINGS — FOR GOOD?"
CRomans 8: 28)
GOD, we make so little time to do this
sort of thing, to give some measure of
undivided attention to the interpreta-
tion of Your truth. That we should make
the most of it now, forgive us our sins,
enlighten us by Your Holy Spirit, that
we may be nurtured by Your truth. Through
Jesus Christ Thy Son, our Lord, Who when
He came, came preaching. Amen.
As I stand before you at this particular moment, my mind goes back across the
years when I was a youngster in Sunday School. My debt to my Sunday School teachers
will remain very, very great. From my vantage-point today, I would have to say as
truthfully as the case might warrant it, some of them were not the best of Bible
scholars, surely none of them was theologically literate. But they kept their ap-
pointment in Bethany Lutheran Church, Montour sville, Sunday after Sunday, and met
with us youngsters in a Sunday School class situation. My debt to them is very great.
You've heard me tell you before, my father an immigrant, my mother the daughter
of immigrant parents, by today's standards academically, both of them would be de-
clared illiterate. I don't remember any of them ever reading, then, to me from the
Bible. Not that they didn't revere God's Word as they read it in their own language.
But much that I early learned about Scriptural truth I got from my Sunday School
I'm telling you this for two reasons. To the day I die I want always to be
able to say "Thank you." That's one of the things my mother taught me.
I also remember that when I went to Sunday School, we were taught to memorize
certain verses of Scripture. We had what we referred to in those days as "memory
verses" or "the text for the day." Weren't they written on little cards, and they
were given to us? and then from one Sunday to the next when we came back we'd
be given a chance to recite and to show how well we had memorized what we had been
assigned. To some of us it was an embarrassing moment, we didn't always remember as
well as we should have....
....and then if we memorized so many, didn't we get the
collection of cards, and then when we'd accumulate so many, didn't
we get a pin or something?
I remember some of those verses to this day.
"ALL THINGS — FOR GOOD?" (2)
Some of them excited me no end
— John 3:16 ... If one were to remember only one verse In the Bible,
that should be the verse above all verses. —
"God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten
Son that whoever believes in him should not perish
but have everlasting life."
and if 1 am conscious when I am dying, may those
words of Scripture be on my lips — taught to me in Sunday School
— and then I remember how excited I was when I was taught to memorize:
" A new commandment I give you, that you love one another."
I love people, you know that, don't you? By nature I am kindly-disposed
toward people. And I was excited to know that that was Scriptural truth,
that that's the way we're meant to behave as children of God, to love one
another. I find contention disdainful. . .hostility is alien to my spirit.
So I was excited, you see, when I was told to memorize that one — love...
love .... love
Oh, I could go on verse after verse, but I want to tell you this morning, the one
that troubled me — and if you won't be too hard on me — it's taken me a long, long
while, even after I memorized it years ago, to have the appreciation for that verse
that it deserves. I never fully came to grips with it until I came to finish this
sermon! Col. Clemens read it for you as the second Lesson for the day. It's from
that glorious 8th chapter of Romans. But tucked away in that 8th chapter are these
words that have literally, actually haunted me. Now don't be too hard on me, I have
a high regard for Scripture and I accept Scriptural truth. But I've had my moments
when I almost said, "I don't believe it I don't believe it I don't believe
it!" Well, here it is:
" For we know that all things work together
for good to those who love the Lord. "
"All things work together for good? to those who love the Lord?"
Listen to this frank recital, and understand all over again why I've argued
with Paul on this text. But before I give you that recital, Paul says, "We know...."
— he doesn't say, "It's my considered opinion ..."
— he doesn't say, "At this particular time in my life when the sun
is shining brilliantly and all is going well, I am happy to tell you
that everything that happens works for good to those who love the
— he didn't happen to say, "According to the basis of my experience
this far in life, I want you to know that I'm inclined to think that
"ALL THINGS — FOR GOOD?" (3)
this could be so . . . " Not at all!
It's as positive as it can Be "We know."
— not: "I think ..."
— not: "I'm inclined to accept this as a possibility ..."
but: " We know , . "
I have had my moments when I think it could have been written by Paul in one
of his better days, when all was going well. I remember not so long ago in a Con-
firmation class, while we were trying to pass some time until the class formally
began, I said to a youngster, "Did you have a good day today?"
...and he said, "Yup - yup - had a good day."
And then I said to him, "Well, what makes a good day?"
...and God bless him, he simply answered,
"When nothing goes wrong."
And that's the way it is for a number of people - - things are wonderful as long as
nothing goes wrong. And even though God put His imprimatur on this world when He
created it, and said, "It's good" - - evil came into the picture. And you can't deny
Now my recital. I've had this running argument with Paul who says:
" Everything works together for good to those
who love the Lord '
but still, "Everything works together for good"?
you could walk it in less than five minutes, I dare say, maybe a
little bit more, from where you're seated right now — you go out on the
Highland Drive entrance or exit, you take the oblique to the left,
that's Fairview Road you walk to the end of Fairview Road and you
come to the public parking lot nearest to this place...
in broad daylight - it's still unsolved - a woman walks
unsuspectingly to her car, accosted by a man with a gun,
who shoots her in cold blood — just like that!
, .. that's, evil! What good comes from that?
....Pastor David told me once when he looked out the second story of
10.06. Dale Drive, before the Enlarged Facility was constructed, when
we had parking directly below, behind us
—very early in the morning he saw a woman walking across the
parking lot, with her hand-bag stringing along by her side...
a car comes down Highland Drive, stops abruptly, engine remains
running, the door remains open, the man runs across the parking
"ALL THINGS ~ FOR GOOD?" (4)
lot, grabs the wonjan's purse, back to the car, off he goes!
...this thing works together for good? — that's evil!
....I'd just been at prayers In the Chapel of The Grateful Heart, some time
ago.. . .within a matter of minutes, not the first house, the parsonage of the
Senior Pastor, the second house - - the third house, right next door to us...
— an Intruder, at mid-day, brutally attacks the young mother with
her precious children, and escapes - -
"...all things work together for good"?
— this family that goes to Mass on Sunday —
"...to those who love the Lord"?
I've had trouble with this text. I'm being very honest with you. And I've argued
with Paul. Evil is evil, and evil is in this world. And when you say "All things"
you're embracing everything, and that means you embrace evil. But I can't shake Paul
of his conviction. I've tried. The Scripture still remains: "We know" - - and evi-
dently it Included a number of people with him who stood on that same solid ground.
Now listen to this. I'm going to read it for you so you don't miss a single
"... At the end of August, 1967, Susan, a fine young American
girl of eighteen was packing her suitcases prior to her going on
holiday, when a violent man broke into her home and attacked her.
After a fierce struggle Susan escaped and staggered down the lane,
battered, stabbed and dying, to collapse and to die in her grand-
mother's arms a hundred yards away.
What a tragedy for her parents, what a tragedy for her brother Ed.
What a tragedy for her grandmother. ..."
"All things work together for good"?
Paul, I'm still having trouble with that. You said it. I want to believe. By the
time this sermon is concluded — relax! — you will be given to know in no uncertain
way that I can say, "Paul, move over — move over, Paul! I understand, I'm with you.
I say the same thing ! "
What is this certainty then, that Paul had, in view of the fact that every one
of us has either gone through a time of deep distress, when all the lights go out —
or will go out at some time to come. No doubt, I'm convinced after all these years
in the ministry, that none escapes it. And I'm convinced this morning as I stand be-
fore you that we can do nothing more useful than discover what this mastery of commit-
ment, what this mastery of conviction really is, and what It's meant to do for us.
I am convinced that all things do not work together for good because that's the same
as saying that whatever it is that happens, evil as it may be, that it's all right!
And I can't say that.
'ALL THINGS — FOR GOOD?" (5)
I still believe that there is such a thing as evil in the world. I'm numbered
among those who unhesitatingly admit that I believe in a personal devil. I believe
in the force of evil. 1 believe in Satan — that there is Satan. If I didn't believe
it for any other reason I'd believe it for this reason; as evidenced by the girl who
came from a fundamentalist home, and went off to college and was exposed to a liberal
professor who pooh-poohed the idea of a personal devil, and said, "Have done with it!
It's an idea that's run its course, we've outgrown it, it's excess baggage! Free
yourself from the notion that there's such a thing as Satan."
...and God bless her, all that she could do was this, as she
addressed the professor: "Sir, if you say there is no such
thing as Satan, then will you please tell me who it is. that's,
carrying on his work?"
And the evidence of evil remains.
Now what are you going to do with this text? — "All things work together for
good to those who love the Lord" I found help by going beyond that King James
translation, which I love, and on which I was reared. The New English Bible transla-
tion, the Revised Standard version, helps me tremendously - - listen how they put it
for us, which sheds a brand new light "For we know that all things work together
for good to those who love the Lord" all things work together for good that's
what troubled me.
- - the New English Bible said:
"In every thing, as we know, he cooperates for good with
those who love God and are called according to his purpose. "
- - or the Revised Standard Version:
"We know that in every thing God is working for good for
those who love him"
Now there! that's what I have been waiting for! Evil is evil, and evil exists.
But God is always greater.
On my shelves I have a book that bears a fascinating title: "God Is Always Greater "
...and this God of ours, the God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is at work
even while evil is at work and to those who love Him, He cooperates with us in learn-
ing how to handle that evil that may so easily beset us. God will not be out-done by
evil. Evil remains the second most powerful force in the world, it never gets beyond
that. God is always greater "We know then that In everything God is working for
good, and for those who love him." - - Now that simply means that you and I have to
keep ourselves in love with God, that means we have to keep our eyes focused on God,
that means we have to keep our relationship with God vital - - and as we keep our rela-
"ALL THINGS ~ FOR GOOD?" (6)
tionshlp vital with God He will not abandon us.
You can be crippled by tlie evil tbat confronts you, it can be debilitating, it
can do it. Or on the other hand, if you put your trust in God, and you keep your
eye on God, God says, "1 will go to work with you." Evil is not ruled out but
God says, "I will not let it do you in."
It's been said that one of the most effective sermons to be preached in recent
years is the sermon of a black preacher whose title for that sermon was simply this:
" IT'S FRIDAY BUT SUNDAY'S COMING!"
It's crucifixion but God has a resurrection on His schedule.
Let me go on now and finish this for you:
"... What a tragedy for her parents, her brother Ed
and her grandmother ..."
, , . ^this 18-year-old who was attacked and died. Yet
somehow her family found God's Spirit cooperating
with them, even in that ghastly murder, and a
month later Susan's mother wrote a wonderful let-
ter to a minister friend. .. .listen now to the letter:
" . . Isn't it a good thing that we can't see into the
future? Who could have imagined such a tragedy that day
we parted? Even now it doesn't seem possible. Nobody
can tell me that this was God's will. I know better.
He had other plans for Sue's life, I'm quite sure. But
I'm equally sure that He can use this horrible thing in
some way for His glory and for His Kingdom.
For one thing, it has had an impact on Ed and other
young people in the community, it has made them think as
they had never thought before. It has made me get back
into youth work in the church. I've taken the inter-
mediate class, and my husband the senior youth. We
realized as never before the importance of young people
growing up with God . . .
(Now you'll understand why she's saying this when you hear this, as
Susan's mother continued)
"... I have no doubt in my mind that Sue was ready to die.
And then as my Uncle Edward said, she's unfolding her bags
on the other side. AH the same her passing has left a deep,
deep hole in our lives, and 1 feel at times that my heart
Her funeral was a triumphant occasion: Bach - "A Mighty
Fortress" - "0 Jesus, I Have Promised" . . .
(She continues in this, her letter to her minister friend)
" . . .We're taking up the threads of our lives again now,
and though the pattern won't be what we had planned, we
pray it will still be beautiful — even more so for having
had my Susan for 18 happy years ..."
"ALL THINGS — FOR GOOD?" (7)
That's a wonderful letter, and the man who put it in front of me and said that I
could share it with you says, "It's almost too sacred to quote." But there shines
through it clearly this perfect confidence and trust in God that in all things God
can still Be at work to those who love Him, and focus their attention upon Him,
who make Him their primary loyalty.
Now I must tell you this; as you know I have never hesitated to be transparent
and honest and frank and personal. One of the grandest gentlemen that I've ever
known, one of God's noblemen, Elwood Francis DeLong . . . as an octogenarian he did
for us the Chapel of The Grateful Heart. Occasionally we would have chats together.
He'd tell me about his past, he'd tell me about his struggles, he'd tell me about
the things he had to endure. It was not always an easy life. There wasn't a cloud
on my horizon. And so I suppose he seemed in duty bound to talk to me as a father
would talk to his son - - as much as to say,
"Raymond, it's bound to come, but don't let it do you in —
don't let anything in life -(tell your people thls}-
debilitate them and cripple them. Go on to write the next
chapter. Try a new beginning."
And then he said something that's absolutely superb, and to the day I die I hope
I'll never forget it. Listen carefully now, for the conclusion, just don't stop at
mid-point. He said,
"Raymond, just don't go on living just somehow. Go on living
Said the Apostle Paul: "We know" - - God cooperates with us,
- - God's our helper,
- - God's our friend,
- - God's our strength ....
- - God is always greater.
Will you do me a favor? remind me of the words that I'm about to use as
this sermon ends. Help me never to forget them. This I do believe.
* * *
(This sermon transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Eleventh Sunday of Pentecost August 26, 1984
"WITH GOD'S LOVE"
(Not to be Bored)
GRACE, mercy and peace from
God our Father and from his Son
Jesus Christ, our Blessed Lord.
A certain percentage of the calls we receive here at Saint Luke for either a bap-
tism, or a wedding, or a funeral, may come from people who have no formal relationship
with this congregation. You will be pleased to know that when I began my ministry I
made up my mind that I would never refuse an opportunity to witness for my Lord when
a call would come from such a person. I would never want to think of myself as being
limited to ministering in the name of Jesus Christ only to those people whose names
might appear on the roster of the congregation that I was called upon to serve.
George Sweezey, in his excellent book on evangelism maintained that any pastor who
will do this sort of thing — make himself available for this type of ministry, whether
they are members of the parish or not — will be able to build up over a reasonable per-
iod of time, a significant number of prospects because you have been given an op-
portunity, you see, to witness in the name of Jesus Christ to these people who turn to
the church. And it could well be, if we wanted to do it right now, we could ask some of
you to stand whose first contact with this church was when you wanted to have a child
baptized, or there was a death in your family, or you came when you wanted to be married.
Now I tell you all of this for the simple reason that I try not to forget that when
I have an encounter with people under such circumstances, that I try to remember who I
am. I'm God's agent, I'm God's servant. I'm there to be with them in behalf of God.
Now I must tell you that when a couple come to be married, and they may be people
that I've never met before, they're quite surprised when I introduce into the questions:
— what's your church membership?
— have you ever been baptized?
— have you ever been confirmed?
I have a little form, you see, where I check this information. Years ago, when people
did not have an active relationship to the church, they might answer in an embarrassed
way, or they'd hem and they'd haw a bit. Not so any more! Any number of folk now tell
" WITH GOD'S LOVE " (2)
me without any hesitation, "Well, we just don't go to church." And when I also ask them
later on in the interview, "Where does the church figure in your future?" some very honest-
ly and without any hesitation say, "We don't have any plans for the church in our future."
It gives me a golden opportunity, you see, to talk to them about going to church.
I'm sorry I have to tell you this, but I think statistics could prove it, that there
are more people in this so-called 'nation under God' who don't go to church on a given Sun-
day than people who do. And when I realize that this is true, and I find myself being con-
fronted by people who don't go to church or the synagogue and I am in a position to ask
them - - - some of the answers that I get are polite, and some are quite impolite — some
are honest, and some aren't very honest. But every now and then I do get an answer, even
though it's in the negative, that I'm constrained to respect.
Take as an example that fellow who wrote an article a few years back in the "Literary
Times . " He was a member of the Anglican Church, but he confessed that he did not attend
services as often as' he should. When he asked himself why he, a religious person, did not
take the opportunity of building up his faith and of strengthening his spiritual life....
— that is, wanting to be with people like you - - why don't people want
to be with us? - - or to be in a place such as this on a particular day
of the week?
...why wouldn't people want to be in a place such as this on a particular day in the week?
Well, this fellow had to admit that he found much that he heard or experienced in church
simply boring. That's why he gave up going to church. And that, mark you, I am in a posi-
tion to say, he was maintaining at a time when any number of congregations were trying to
'spruce up" their services with so-called contemporary forms, folk masses, guitars, bongo
drums and the like. And yet he could say that even when he went under those conditions,
he found it boring. Said he in lamentable fashion, and honest, "What I want when I go to
church is something that I can get nowhere else, a message that the world cannot give, nor
take away. There should be something in the Christian message and in the Christian wor-
ship that is unique and for which there is no substitute."
As I come to you this morning and stand at this particular desk I want to confess to
you that I could not be in anything less than agreement with the person who speaks so free-
ly and so frankly. My chief concern would be that no member of this congregation would
ever have to speak as he has spoken. We do not intend to entertain you, we do not intend
to excite you in the hour that you spend here. But we do hope and pray that while you are
here you are not bored. But to the contrary, that you should be challenged, inspired, and
edified — as at no other time and as perhaps in no other place.
" WITH GOD'S LOVE " (3)
There are reasons why this should be true. As an example, whenever we come to a place
such as this and associate with people such as you we lift ourselves beyond our own hori-
zon. We think in terms of spiritual truths, we think in terms of the eternal verity. And
like as not, we hear the echo of a gallant soul across the corridors of time. We deal
with this Book that's in front of us, ageless as it is, and every now and then we echo a
voice — a voice heard a long time ago, with a message that you will not hear anywhere
Every now and then it's my privilege to stand here and to tell you that what I'm tell-
ing you, I'm telling you on the basis of someone else's experience whom I have come to
trust and respect , the giants in the faith who appear within these holy pages ~ someone
such as the Apostle Paul, the author of the words that were read as the second Lesson for
today — when he talked about absolutely nothing being able to separate us from the love
of Christ a person who when he spoke could say, "I know I believe I am per-
suaded I am sure ..." And if that were not enough, I would hope that by this
time when you hear the voice of the person who stands at this sacred desk before you now,
that you do not hear the sound of a uncertain trumpet. For out of the fulness of my life
given to Jesus Christ I have not come to share with you fanciful notions, I have not come
to share with you hopes and dreams. Phillips Brooks, the beloved Pastor of Trinity Church
in Boston, used to say, and said it well, that preaching is the communication of truth
through personality and by that he meant Scriptural truth through the very fires and
the very fiber and the very soul of someone who has been bathed in Scripture, who is com-
mitted to Jesus Christ.
Dr. Alfred Noyes once said that when he found himself in a disheartened or a discour-
aged mood, he often turned for relief to the published letters of Robert Lewis Stevenson.
It's a heartening and inspiring thing when moments of discouragement come to get in touch
with a great soul. You know, that's what we do when we come together. Whatever preaching
that can be shared with you like as not is the echo of a soul that's been touched by
Jesus Christ, a witness again from the day when the church was very young. And you and I
need to keep in touch with gallant souls who can lift our spirits and give us courage.
There are some people in whose presence I simply must be found, for I gather strength
from all that they represent.
I cannot begin to tell you how great my debt is to our venerable Sister Mildred, who
is going to spend the month of September with us ~ a woman of tremendous integrity, a
woman who has fought the battle for Jesus Christ across the decades, someone who just
" WITH GOD'S LOVE " (4)
hasn't dropped down fully fashioned from Heaven, but who struggled with the faith and
comes out the victor, thanks to Jesus Christ. People such as this one. People, I dare
say, such as you, here and there, in whose presence I need to be found in order to draw
a measure of strength.
By the same token there are some people I have to shun . I cannot afford to spend
too much time with them. They can negate whatever courage I'm trying to muster, they
can dampen my spirit.
Did you ever think of it from this perspective, that every time we come together we
find ourselves thinking of the gallant ones in the faith, the ones who have struggled,
the ones who are able to say, "This I know to be true!" There are passages in the let-
ters written to Christian churches in the New Testament which contain heartening words
which we can read for our health in trying hours. Take these closing verses of the 8th
chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, read as the second Lesson for today. They come to
offer us help and inspiration. They are written with wonderful assurances and unshakable
certainty. For the Christian in the world there is so much that conspires to lay him
low. A realistic reading of life is this, that life can do you in. You may not realize
it, my friend, but there are some things worse than death.... and on occasion it can be
life itself. There are moments when death can be very merciful, there can be times when
life itself can be brutal — badger you, break you. That's why the Apostle Paul could
say: "... whether it be death or whether it be life ..." his conviction remains the
In that magnificent ending of that 8th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans he raises
a question, and then he goes on to answer out of the depth of his own soul. The question
is: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written,
'For thy sake we are being killed all
the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaugh-
No, in all these things we are more than conquer-
ors through him who loved us "
And listen to this. This is no novice speaking now, this is no person fresh from divinity
school standing in the pulpit in his first year saying, "I hope that what I am telling you
This is a man speaking out of his own experience, winding up his ministry, looking back
over what he has seen, looking back over what he has gone through. And at this point in
his life he's giving us the bottom line - - - "For I am convinced, or as Dr. Kaufman read
'WITH GOD'S LOVE" (5)
it, "I am sure neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities,
nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor
depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate
us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Paul is writing, I dare say, as he begins his last journey toward Jerusalem, and he's
fully aware of what awaits him. Not all of us can read the future. He had a pretty good
idea of what was yet to come — much more of the same thing than had already occurred.
And for him that wasn't a happy thought.
You remember how he wrote to the Christians who lived in the wicked city of Corinth,
when he was trying to give them a measure of courage — a gallant soul trying to build the
fire of faith within them. He wrote of his own record in life. Boldly and frankly he re-
ferred to himself. "Let me tell you something," says Paul, " I speak as though I am stand-
ing alongside of myself" (which is simply saying, 'I want to speak to you as objectively
as I can'). " Life can do you in ..."
— his way of saying there are some worse things, perchance, than death.
" I have been in labors more abundantly than anybody else ..."
— which is saying, "I've worked harder at this business
of being a Christian than any number of you people can
stand up and say that you've had a hard time of it ... "
" I have been in prisons more often than any of you ..."
— "Look at my back! You can't even count the number of
stripes that I have been given; it hasn't been easy!
" I have been near death many a time . . .
(I'm giving you a free translation now)
— "Five times received I forty stripes at the hand of a
Jew, save one.
— Three times I was beaten — not with a cord, not with
a stick — three times I was beaten with rods .
" Once I was stoned ..."
— You've never seen a stoning, have you? When some of us
have taken pilgrimages to the Holy Land we've stood at a
particular vantage-point and we've looked down into a pit,
where they would in years gone by throw a person, only to
bombard him with rocks, one after another, until he was left
at death's door — bones broken, body battered, bruised and
" WITH GOD'S LOVE " (6)
" Three times I suffered shipwreck . . . a nigh t
and day have I been In the deep "
— not three hours, not two hours, not a night, but a night and a day!
"I have had troublesome, dangerous times in the river. .. .I've had to
put up with robbers I've had to put up with my own countrymen, who did
not deal kindly with me, to say nothing about the Gentiles I've had
troubles in the city, in the wilderness, in the sea often I have been
hungry, often I have been thirsty, I have been cold, I have been naked
That's what I've had in life. It hasn't been easy!"
My dear mother, of blessed memory, when I walked away as we laid my father to rest,
we spoke as though a whole lifetime now, in capsule fashion, was in front of us, recall-
ing their years together, the terrible struggle they had ~ she, the daughter of an im-
migrant and he an immigrant peddler himself ~ when even though the outstretched hand
of Lady Liberty said "You're welcome!" they had to fight for acceptance in one commu-
nity after another. We have not always been gracious to strangers. Sometimes we've
hurled cruel names at them. But as we walked away, with those brown eyes of hers she
looked at me and it was as though she were recalling all of a lifetime . She said,
"Raymond, it wasn't always easy."
Why do some of us come back to a place like this? ~ because we want a realistic
reading of life! and that realistic reading is that it isn't always easy, but, you
can be more than a conquerer. Life doesn't have to do you in. Or, as I see the sign
that Marge Kline put up out at Montgomery General Hospital, as she's conducting sessions
for people who need to be encouraged, "I CAN COPE ... I CAN COPE ... I CAN COPE"
That's what the Apostle Paul is saying to us: "We are more than conquerors. Nothing can
separate us from the love of God ~ nothing, absolutely nothing." There's nothing boring
about that, my friend. That's why some of us keep coming back to a place such as this —
we need to be excited by a message through the echo of a soul who said, "I know ... I
know ... I am persuaded that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ
"What now shall we say to these things?" says the Apostle Paul as he looked out and
saw the panorama of life — all that was ugly, untoward, unfortunate "We can be more
than conquerors and nothing can separate us from the love of God." Paul, I envy you.
Would to God I could say it with the same ultimate measure of conviction that you do!
" WITH GOD'S LOVE " (7)
He's far out in front of many of us — he's so blessedly sure! Some of us take him at
his word, and wish that we could say it a bit stronger than we do. But I need to remind
myself as I need to remind you, that when Paul talks about all of this being possible
because of the love of God, he's not talking about his love for God, he's not talking
about your love for God. He's talking about God's love for us . And that makes all the
difference in the world. We can't fully trust our love for God. We can falter, we're
stained by original sin. We can never love Him as we ought to love Him. And we may
have our moments when we fall out in our love for God. Paul isn't talking about God's
love for man which remains constant, and nothing can separate us from what God always
wants to give us. That's the exciting thing that you hear within these walls. What do
you suppose I have been trying to tell you for 28 years? You know that, don't you —
it's God's love that remains. And nothing can separate us from that love, no matter
how willful we may become.
Wait a minute longer, I must tell you this. He was a reader of Joseph Forte Newton,
a preacher in Philadelphia, then he had a distinguished career in City Temple in London.
When he was here in the States he wrote a column for one of the Philadelphia papers. I
remember so well one of the articles that he wrote. It's a vignette. In colonial Ameri-
ca a band of Indians came, pillaged a villiage, and took some of the young boys captive.
For some strange reason they didn't touch the mothers — the men and the boys. They did
away with the men, but they kept the boys, so the story has it. The mothers went on liv-
ing, hoping and praying that some day they might be united with their children. Years
A Colonel of the Colonial Army came upon these Indians and recognized the differ-
ence in the facial features, they were not all the same Indian tribe. As life had it,
he discovered the village that had been attacked, and brought news to some of the women
who were still living. The women were brought to the Indian camp. They were given the
opportunity of trying to recognize their own son. Think of it now, the years have come
and gone, changes have set in. How could you recognize at 18 or 22 the child who had
been six, and you'd never seen him since that day?
One mother went up and down the line, trying to identify her son, and just about to
give up — she couldn't find any one that she thought was hers — and none recognized
her, of course. And then it occurred to her . . . she asked for the privilege of going
up and down the line and singing an old lullaby, old love song which she had sung to her
" WITH GOD'S LOVE " (8)
child as a baby. And as she sang that love song, that lullaby, one of them stepped for-
ward and embraced her with tears. He recognized the song of love.
That's the way it is with us, my friend, some of us come back to a place such as
this to hear God's love song wooing us back, and telling us we can go on, that life
doesn't keep us captive forever. Nothing boring about that, is there? You will remem-
ber you heard it here, won't you?
(transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost Septojiiber 9, 1984
" NOTHING BUT THE FACTS "
CLEANSE US, GOD, by Your Holy Spirit, , /-'>. ^
that we may be made fit to think Your
thoughts as we give sane attention to
the interpretation of Your Holy Word.
Through Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord,
Who \A\en He came, came preaching. Amen ,
For the life of me I can't quite remonber the name of the show — it was one of
those early television shews back in the 50' s. It had a detective in it... he wore a
felt hat, if I remember correctly, and a double-breasted suit. And the line that I
recall more than anything — "just the facts, ma'am, just the facts — nothing but
the facts." I never cease to marvel at the number of people vdio want facts, but
don't knew how to handle facts. There are any number of people who v±ien they get the
facts, either misinterpret them, misconstrue them, or mis-perceive them. Let me give
you an excellent case in point: the Gospel Lesson for the day.
Whether you realize it or not, there are at least three shockers in that Gos-
pel Lesson, and all of them as a matter of fact — a portrayal of Jesus Christ ^lich
is so unlike Jesus Christ, but still as a matter of fact. Let me recall it for you.
It's straight, seven verses right out of the 15th chapter of the Gospel according to
...Jesias has crossed over now frcm Galilee, the border that
leads into Syria, the coastal tewns of Tyre and Sidcn. Now
for v^iatever reason that took Him there, that's v^ere He
happens to be that's a fact.
And v^le He's there He's encountered by a Canaanite wonan,
a Syro-Phoenician wonan. That means that she was not of the
Jewish faith. And as she encounters Jesus Christ she cries
out to Him, she wants His attention, she has a great need.
And the need is not her own but the need is for her daughter,
according to Scripture, v/ho is "grievously vexed by a devil."
Now get ready for three facts, each one shocking in turn.
She yells, she shouts, she tries to get Jesiis' attention —
and He answers her not a word. That's a fact.
the second thing, ^en she continues to try to get His attention in her earnest
desire to get her daughter healed. He says sctnething about not being sent except to
"NOTHING BUT THE FACTS" (2)
the lost sheep of the house of Israel . That's a fact. It's a shocking fact! It
cuts! It's not pleasant. It wasn't easy for her to hear it.
...so unlike Jesus, this behavior pattern. He who had taken
the initiative to go out of His way to do something good to
somebody — you can't picture Jesus going down the street
just waiting for people to come to Him, of course you can't!
He was the kind of person who was always taking the initiative .
Some 40 miles from the town where Winifred and I used to live there's a town in
Columbia County called Benton, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of one of the most re-
markable persons who's ever lived in recent years. That's where Frank Laubach, the
father of the literacy method, was born. There are several things that you ought to
know about Frank Laubach....
- - he wasn't simply given to "each one teach one" - - he
didn't just subscribe to the fact that what good will it
be if people are taught to read if they're not taught to
read the right thing? - - and to that he threw himself with
complete abandon. If we're going to be taught to read, then
for God ' s sake , Frank Laubach maintained , be sure you read
the right things . That ' s where he had a great concern for
But what I want to tell you about him now, quite incidentally — and yet not too in-
cidentally — he was the kind of a person who if he were seated in a bus or a train,
or an airplane, he'd focus his attention on someone. He didn't take his eyes off
of that person. And you know exactly what would happen, if you've ever experimented
with that kind of thing - - eventually the person turns around and the pair of eyes
meet and Laubach also established the "CIHYOU" method - "Can I Help You?" —
taking the initiative. Always in this world there are people in need. Jesus was that
kind of person. But now — would you believe it! — so unlike Jesus.
Here is a woman screaming and yelling — say it again — anyone who's spent any
time at all in the Middle East knows how people seeking pity can make a scene and a
demonstration, and won't give up until they get some kind of attention paid to them.
And Jesus gives her the shocker for the second time. In fact this Gospel Lesson has
three shockers in it*
— the first one was the silent treatment — "He answered her not a word"
That's a fact.
— and the second fact: "I'm not sent except to the children of Israel,
the lost sheep" ... as much as to say, "I'm not obligated to
"NOTHING BUT THE FACTS" (3)
to pay attention to you. My mission in life is the lost
children of Israel, and you're not one of them."
So unlike Jesus. But it's a fact!
Then the third shocker. Jesus said something about "You don't take the chil-
dren's bread and cast it to dogs." — that's a fact! Jesus said it!
Three times, Jesus the shocker — the one of whom we usually think: gentle Jesus,
meek, mild , compassionate , considerate — taking the initiative to pay attention to
somebody - - giving this woman - - - the only reason she comes to Him is because
she's a mother, and is concerned about her child.
Let me say it again, I am deeply troubled by people who take facts and mis-construe
them, mis-interpret them, mis-conceive them. There are people who have done that with
this passage of Scripture. You can read in some commentaries that there are people who
take the same set of facts that I've just given you, and said that Jesus crossed over
the border into Syria because He was very tired. He was being harrassed by the Phari-
sees, He wanted a respite. He was annoyed by the fact that He had done as much as He
had done for the Children of Israel and was not getting a very good reception. There
are those who say that this is a fact. He answered her not a word. He didn't pay atten-
tion to her because He says to Himself, if the Jewish people haven't responded, why
should I waste my time on her? So that's the way some people can handle a fact —
mis-perceive it, mis-construe it.
There are also people who say He was tired. He was weary. He wanted to get away
from Galilee, He needed rest. And this woman screaming and yelling, came as an itti-
It's a fact that He didn't answer her.
It's a fact that He said what He did.
It's a fact that He talked about casting crumbs to dogs — that's right.
Do I have to beg you to give Jesus Christ credit for always being a gentleman? Do I
have to take you to task for allowing this passage of Scripture to cause you undue
trouble? Let me help you as best I can. It's a magnificent chapter, it's a tremendous
interpretation of the way Jesus puts a person's faith to the test.
You see, whenever you deal with facts you have to be careful how you interpret
them, and give yourself time to come to what is essentially the bottom line — where
does the matter essentially rest ? No matter what the road was that you traveled to
get to a particular point, for God's sake don't lose yourself being overly concerned
by the incidentals that have happened along the way. What really matters most is the
way you record the data at the bottom line. And the bottom line in this case is:
" NOTHING BUT THE FACTS " (4)
"O woman, be it unto thee even as thou wilt,
for great is thy faith " - - and her daughter
was made whole right then and there!
Now, two things if you don't mind.
One, Jesus Christ has a way of testing people. We're always being tested.
You'd be surprised sometimes, whether wittingly or unwittingly, what we really are
will surface as we encounter people. That's one of the values, you see, in allow-
ing people to talk. Eventually you discover where they're coming from, and where
they've been. Jesus by deliberate design gave her not only the silent treatment but
the shocking treatment, in order for her to reveal her real self. No question about
And one of the grand and glorious things to be said about this passage of Scrip-
ture is that if you want to you can take it as a case study in the way a person ac-
cepts one-self where one happens to be :
— she was not of the Jewish faith. This she admitted, and accepted.
— she had not had the benefit of all of the training that the
other people had had that Jesus had encountered, not even
It's a marvelous case study in a person willing to accept herself where she happens
And that's a problem for any niimber of us. For any number of us it's extremely
difficult for us to accept ourselves as we are . That's the great task, you see, of
the psychologists and the psychiatrists and the counsellors — to somehow set in
front of us, in due process, the real image . But it does trouble me sometimes when
we spend too much of our energies talking about sublimation, then, or self-analysis,
or reality. There comes a point where one has to recognize a measure of dependence
upon someone other than himself or herself, in order to become better than one has
been, or is. And this is the marvelous contribution that religion has to offer you
and me. The Christian faith is always introducing us to Jesus Christ, and eventually
if we give ourselves time He looms upon the horizon in one way or another. And when
He does come. He puts us to the test as to whether or not we're going to hold out long
enough until we reach the point where we say "I surrender." And that's exactly what
this woman did. She surrendered herself and all that she was into the hands of Jesus
Christ — regardless of His delaying tactics, regardless of the struggle that had to
be endured. She kept at it, until she said, "You win!"
But she put up a struggle in the meantime. And she assumed a measure of responsi-
bility for herself even as she accepted herself where she was.,/ Talk about eating crumbs?
Talk to me that way, God - - tell me that's my station in life. But tell me I don't have
" NOTHING BUT THE FACTS " (5)
to stay there, tell me I don't belong there."
They used to tell the story about an evangelist in London who ministered in the
slums, who chalked up one of the great moments in his life when he encountered the
habitual drunkard, who looks up into the eyes of the padre and says, "Go ahead.
Padre, tell me where I am — drunk, in the gutter — but for God's sake. Padre, tell
me I don't have to stay there ! This Syro-Phoenician woman "Tell me, Jesus —
I'm going to stick with it. I'm going to keep coming back at you! Try me, test me as
you will." Sooner or later every person is responsible for the way they give evidence
of their own basic integrity. That's the kind of time and that's the kind of treatment
that Jesus was giving this woman. Can't you take heart from this, then, that we are
made of that kind of stuff? — that we can be made equal even to the test to which
Jesus Christ puts us? We don't have to cower, we don't have to wallow in self-pity.
In the face of the struggle God made us with enough stuff that we can keep coming
back, no matter how we think He delays. Now that's one thing you daren't forget in
this magnificent chapter of Scripture.
And the second thing is this: He had to stick with it, and she had to stick with
it, until the data for the bottom line could be written. Jesus Christ doesn't reward
us on the basis of little faith. You may read the Scripture repeatedly and you'll
discover that His sublime compliment always goes to those to whom He can say, "Be it
unto thee, for great is thy faith" - - and every now and then pays someone the supreme
compliment and He says, "You can have what you want because yoxir faith is great enough."
The trouble with any number of us is we have a faith, but it's only a little faith ~
it can take us only so far down the road, just like last Sunday's sermon, with Peter
walking on the water. He just had enough faith to get him out there, to stand up.
But he didn't have enough faith to keep him walking in the direction of Jesus Christ.
Don't you remember the letter that I read for you some time ago from that woman
who hasn't been able to come to Saint Luke Church for a number of years, and only last
year, I think it was, she gathered enough strength to be here for the baptism of her
grandchild a woman who finds every single hour of the day and night an ordeal.
And in that letter that she wrote me she said, "Pastor, if it were not for the faith
that I have ~ and it's great faith, I could not have endured. Pastor, tell your
people that a little faith won't do it ! It has to be great faith."
Now, you and I need to keep ourselves in the struggle. She didn't give up. The
bottom line is, Jesus said, "You have great faith." Let me make it as simplistic as
possible - - only great faith gets the complimentary reward! And keep before you that
hope that it's possible. There's always the possibility of the great Amen. And that's
how this passage of Scripture ends, with that triumphant Amen.
"NOTHING BUT THE FACTS" (6)
Sir Arthur Sullivan put it for us one day - -
"Seated one day at the organ, I was weary and ill at ease,
And my fingers wandered idly over the noisy keys;
I knew not what I was playing, or what I was dreaming then.
But I struck a chord of music like the sound of a great Amen.
It flooded the crimson twilight like the close of an angel's song.
And it lay on my fevered spirit with a touch of an infinite calm. "
That's the lesson that comes to us straight from this set of facts. Somewhere
along the line there is the possibility for this woman of striking that magnificent
chord that would end with a great Amen. "To give up pretentions," writes William
James, "is as blessed a relief as to get them gratified." - - and that isn't only psy-
chology, it's religion. There is a way of accepting what we are, and instead of sit-
ting down on it, with all the xinlovely results of self-pity, you begin with it, and
you're motivated by the possibility of a glorious Amen. It is not a matter of resig-
nation. Life begins when it becomes a matter of surrender to Jesus Christ, no matter
what the treatment may be in the meantime.
Of the merchants' adventures of Elizabeth's day these inspired words were written;
"They dared beyond their strength.
They hazarded against their judgment;
And in extremities they were of excellent hope."
The saviors of this world today are those who go on in brave assurance that
despite every evidence to the contrary, this is God's world. And He has a way of
rewarding those who persevere with their faith. This I most certainly believe.
(This sermon transcribed as recorded)
SERMON - THE REV . RRYJ«DND SHRHEiaj^,- P.P.
Festival of the Reformation
held By Lutheran Churches- in
The Washington- Cathedral
October 28, 1984
" LUTHER; A MAN WITH THE BOOK "
Text: " And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and He
went to the synagogue, -as His custom was, on the Sabbath dag.
And He stood up to read; and there was given to Him the book
of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the
place where it was written ,
'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because
He has- anointed me to preach good news to
He has sent me to proclaim release to the
eaptives^ and recovering of sight to the
blind, to set at liberty those who are~op-
pressed, to proclaim the acceptable year
of the Lord. ' ~~
And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attenda nt, and
sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixe d on
Him. And He began to say to them, 'Today, this scripture has
been fulfilled in your hearing.' . . " (Luke 4:16-21),
Whether the townspeople of Nazareth realized it or not, the day was bound to
come when Joseph-the-Carpenter's. son. would lay the tools-of-the-trade down for
the last time and walk away from that Galilean village. But not for long. The
day was also bound to come when He would return. And He did - - and with a differ-
ence. He left a carpenter ~ He was a good carpenter — naturally, He'd known nothing
else at 30 years of age, it had been His only job — and He had had a good teacher.
Yes, say it again - - He left a carpenter — a good carpenter, but He returned a
preacher - - a better preacher than a carpenter!
At any rate that's the way the folks of Nazareth sized it up. You see, since the
day He left Nazareth they had gotten some wind as to what He was up to ~ a preacher
of some reputation — and they presumably filled the synagogue to over-flowing once
the word had gotten around that He was back in town.
Little wonder that the chief elder, or whatever the presiding minister would be
called, should spot Him and give Him the honor of being the Lesson Reader ~ likewise
"LUTHER; A MAN WITH THE BOOK" (.2)
affording Hitn an opportunitir to speak. And Jesus, Joseph 's: Son , one^time-carpenter-
now-turned preacher seizes the moment. The preacher in Him takes over completely.
And what does He do? He looks- at the world with the Bible in His hands —
that's what every preacher is- meant to do. Say it again and often — the carpenter-
turned-preacher was the Man with The Book in His hands! Allow that picture of Jesus
to become firmly fixed in your mind. No picture of Jesus is ever complete unless He
is related to the Scriptures. .
It's a frequently overlooked page in the Bible - only Luke at that recorded the
incident — that represents the launching of His ministry - - it was then and there
that He declared in no uncertain manner who He knew Himself to be — what the world
was like - - and what He intended to do about it J And all the while He was among
with a sword in His hand? No.
with a spear i~n His- hand? No.
with a hammer in His- hand? No.
with nothing more than a bookl
The Man - new revolutionary - debate in 1519.:
"A council may sometimes err. Neither
the Church nor the Pope can establish
articles of Faith,. These must come
Wrote a well-known news-magazine essayist a few short years back "There have
been very few men who have ever lived who have altered the course of history. One
of them was Jesus Christ. Another, Karl Marx. Still another, Martin Luther."
And in each instance I can say to you — each significantly enough is remembered as
"A Man With The Book."
You can't possibly think of Jesus Christ aside from the Scriptures. You can't
possibly think of Karl Marx aside from his "Das Kapital." Come to think of it, at
many junction points in history it has been the-man-with-the-book who has been fol-
lowed for good or ill. . . ,
— can you separate Adolph Hitler from his "Mein Kampf"?
— Melanchton from his "Loci"?
— Calvin from his "Institutes"?
— Augustine from his "Confessions" or "City of God"?
— Darwin from his "Origin of The Species"?
"LUTHER; A MAN WITH THE BOOK" (3)
— Martin Niemollejc -'-■ Bible in hand - calling out to
the prisoners- from his; Dachaia cell?
Novr, I say to you, think of Jesus of Nazareth without thinking of Him as He out-
lined His life mission that day in the synagogue as anyone other than the Person With
The Bookl And it was that Book — the Sacred Scriptures — that assured Him His iden-
tity, provided Him a realistic view of the world, and prompted Him to act without
delay as- God's agent for rectification and reconciliation — equating, what few have
ever acconplished, the messenger with the message - - what none of us should ever
fail to attempt.
Now having spoken a good word about Jesus Christ with Book in Hand . . . permit
me a few sentences regarding His 16th Century servant — a man named Luther — also
a man with the Book.
He had gone, you may remember, to Wittenberg University as professor of Biblical
Studies. Given the corruption of the church in his day, it was. the most natural thing
in the world that he would at one and at the same time became both intrigued and trou-
bled by the scriptural accent upon righteousness. His attention was especially drawn
to the Psalms and then most particularly to Paul's theme in Romans.: "For therein is
the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just
shall live by faith." (Romans 1:17)
Now hear him speak for himself as he recalled those days:
"Night and day I pondered, iintil I saw the connection
between the justice of God and the statement that 'The
just shall live by faith." Then I grasped that the
justice of God is that righteousness by which, through
grace and sheer mercy, God justifies us through faith.
Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone
through open doors into paradise."
So Luther declared anew the doctrine of justification and the cornerstone of The
Reformation was laid. But his sola fide would never have been possible without his
sola scriptura . Therefore, he remains, "The Man With The Book."
As he studied with much more-than-average diligence the Scriptures, his subsequent
theology was definitely emerging. A summary could be offered in this manner:
1. Man is a sinner by nature. The effects of original sin remain
in him throughout all his life.
2. Only grace, God's gift through Christ and the Holy Spirit, can
drive out this sinfulness.
"LUTHER; A MAN WITH THE BOOK" (.4)
3. Since grace is^ a free gift of God, it can never be
earned '• only^ accepted.
4. Grace comes-^ to us- through", faith - when we accept God's
Word xinder the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
5. Because faith and grace are free gifts^ of God, no
Chris-tian has- grounds to Boas-t of His righteous works.
6. Christians^, therefore, must be confident of their salva-
tion, not Because of the works of man, but because of
the works of God.
Quite naturally that the Reformation movement became a movement of the Bible.
^^ ?° time at all the relationship of tradition and scripture would loom largely
upon the horizon. The reformers-, Luther in particular, had a high regard for the
Church Fathers. But even the Church Fathers were to be measured by the Holy Scrip-
Luther made his finest contribution as he firmly and surely turned the pages of
the Good Book, Typical of his worth to the church is the way he ejxploded in the
face of John Eck at Leipzig after an 18-day
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Twenty- third Sunday After Pentecost November 18, 1984
GRACE, Mercy and Peace from God our
Father and from His Son Jesus Christ,
our Blessed Lord. Amen.
Last Sunday at 8:30, when it came time to preach the sermon, I raised the ques-
tion: Suppose it were within your power to have lived at another time, other than the
age in which you now live - - what period would you have preferred? I went on to
suggest that whatever it may have been with you, I would have chosen, I think, the
time of the prophets, when certain people chosen by God would stand up and speak
clearly and honestly, without any reluctance, and absolutely convinced that what they
were saying was according to the burden of the Lord which God had placed upon them.
When the 8:30 service was over, a member of the congregation said to me, as much
as this -- "You may have chosen the prophets - - I would have chosen the time of Jesus."
Well, far be it from me to have excluded Jesus from such a period, because He was the
chief of the prophets, of course. But now I am about to tell you, had you said decided-
ly that it would have been specifically the time of Jesus, I must tell you, it wouldn't
have been a pleasant time for you. No matter how much you may love Him now, no matter
how kindly disposed you may be toward Him, and you may permit yourself to believe that
people felt just as you now do toward Him - - that was not true when He went around
from place to place.
As an example, I enjoy a luxury that I don't think Jesus very often enjoyed, and
for the most part any preacher who stands at this sacred desk in Saint Luke Church
could say the same thing - - eyery guest preacher we've ever had has been able to say,
when the service is over, that you are responsive people, that you do listen atten-
tively, that you do have a high regard for the Good Book. That wasn't always true for
...there were times when He stood up to speak, when He was surrounded by people
who were going to test Him at eyery single thought He advanced
...there were people who when He was going to preach, would deliberately speak
up -- interrupt Him, try to trip Him and to test Him
That you may know whereof I speak, I have to recall for you now what Carin read for us --
I'll read only a portion of it, of the Gospel for today, the 22nd chapter of the Gos-
pel according to Matthew:
" LOVE POWER" -2
"... When the Pharisees had heard that he had put
the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a
question, tempting him . . . . "
Get the picture? There they were, two groups of people, inevitably giving Jesus a
rough time, ganging up on Him. When one would have their day, the other would with-
draw. Then sometimes together they made an advance. Now Jesus had succeeded in
quieting the one group, but that only gave the other group courage enough to try
their hand at it. Can't you imagine, now, how they got together, and they said,
"You do it this time I We'll put you in a position, we'll catch him now."
"... But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the
Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one
of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting
him, and saying. Master, which is the great commandment in the
law? . . . "
....foolish question, really. They knew the answer - - every single Jew knew the
answer to that question. As soon as a Jew was able to memorize Scripture, as soon
as he was taught any kind of Scripture, the answer to that question was what he
memorized. And as a devout Jew, according to practice — twice each day he recited
. . . Jesus answered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind. This is the greatest and
the most important commandment ..."
( . . . "As though you didn't know," He could have said,
"Why did you ask me? . . . ")
And then He went on quickly — always giving us more than we bargain for. He said:
" The second most Important commandment is like it:
'Love your neighbor as yourself. On these two
commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
....as much as to say. Nothing is more important.
I need to tell you that I've always had a bit of trouble with the way Jesus
reminded them of what Scripture had said centuries before. Love as a commandment?
That's not your understanding of love, is it? And as I relate to some of you in
conversation, as I've observed your behavior pattern — can you command a person to
love? Somewhere along the line we get the idea that we fall in love, that it hap-
pens - - so we have nothing to do with it. There's either an element of chemistry
or some kind of Identification, that all of a sudden it sets inl So contrary to the
kind of thing that I discovered when I spent time in India, or certain other parts
"LOVE POWER" -3
of the world, where marriages are arranged by the parents, where two people are
told, and they meet - - "You're going to live together, you're going to marry
each other." . . . nothing of this romantic bit that characterizes the rest of
the world. And then once they're married - - now listen carefully - - they learn
to love each other.
Strange way of looking at it as far as we're concerned. But we pay a price
for this business, you see, of allowing ourselves to think that we fall in love,
because if we can fall in love, we just as easily allow ourselves to fall out of
love. And that's a frightening thought. But if you go on the premise you fall
in love, you can excuse yourself, then, and you reach an impasse and allow yourself
to fall out of the relationship.
Our Blessed Lord said — not giving them any options, not saying that you can
think this over and if it appeals to you maybe you'll want to practice it. As suc-
cinctly as possible, and as directly as possible. He says, "You shall love — love
the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and
you shall love your neighbor as yourself." It's a divine directive. .. .and it causes
some people a great deal of trouble when you stop to think about a command to love.
I don't know that I'd rick it, I don't know that I'd say to two people, any two
people that I might choose if I could experiment in this way, by saying, "Now I'm
going to put you two people down in front of each other, and no matter what you
bring to this thing, now, you've got to love one another .... I'm not going to
let you out of the room until you love each other." - - - you can't compel people
to lovel It's not a forcible relationship. Isn't that right? And yet Jesus said,
"You shall love."
There's another verse of Scripture that's brought me a great deal of comfort,
it's enlightened me considerably. It's in the New Testament. It's phrased very
simply - - "Keep yourself in the love of God." Now as soon as you begin to say
" Keep yourself" — that implies effort, that implies your working at it, that implies
some measure of diligence as well as devotion. Now you put the two together: when
Jesus said, "You must love " - - - and " keep it that way."
I'm always troubled when couples come to me and just blurt it out - - "We've
fallen out of love" - - as though love were like water running through a spigot,
and you're free to turn it on or off at will. From the Christian perspective, love
is a free-flowing thing, constantly available, because of its need.
"LOVE POWER" -4
The text for this sermon again:
" Thou Shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy
heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy
mind. This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thbilshalt love
thy neighbor as thyself."
No matter how you may react to what I've already told you, I want you to know
very clearly that I'm terribly excited by what you're about to hear. As I continue
to deal with this text I'm absolutely convinced that Jesus is making very plain to
us that the potential lies within us to love. You heard me, didn't you — that down
deep inside every one of us we are made to love, the potential is ours. I don't
think Jesus Christ would require the impossible from any person. That's why He pro-
vides us His Holy Spirit — to help us.
I've developed a cherished friendship with a certsin person for whom I have
profound regard and respect. When I needed most to hear it, she was the one that
God chose, I think, to speak these words to me, when I was concerned about a parti-
cular dilemma. She said to me, "You have no choicel" - - and upon reflection I knew
exactly what she wanted me to understand - - "You must do what you're meant to do,
and you must become what you're meant to become." And in a certain sense that's what
Jesus is saying in this commandment — "you're meant to love, and I'm not going to give
you a choice." God doesn't give us a choice to hate, God gives us a command to love.
And I'm absolutely thrilled at the concept that it lies within every single one of us,
the potential ±s^ ours, we can love, we can meet other people's needs.... we can be as
Christ to other people - - because Christ is God's personification of love, the com-
Let me put it for you this way, you and I have been blessed with a tremendous
love power. You and I are free to determine how and to whom this love power can take
many forms, it can be the love of parents. As long as I live and as long as God gives
me memory I'll breathe the name of my parents with nothing less than gratitude, that
when I came into this world they had outstretched arms to love me . . . they were the
first to teach me the meaning of love.
This love power takes many forms. It can be the love of parents. It can be
the love of brother or sister - - I was one of six. And as Winifred could tell you,
different as the six of us have been, as day is from night - - there's a regard that
we have for each other. I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am that they love
me as they do. And I know it I
"LOVE POWER" -5
This love power - - we can express it in our love for God. We can know it
in God's love for us. We can know it in the love that we have for our country,
for mankind, the love that we have for an idea or an ideal the love that we
have for a person of the same sex.... the love that we have for a person of the
opposite sex. The Scripture that I have been reading for you repeatedly as I
preach this sermon sets down the rule for our loving when it declares:
"First you love God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind - - and
then you will be able to love your neighbor as
Notice the deep psychological meaning of this declaration — first you direct your
love toward God, no matter what form your love may take, and no matter what person
may be the object, all of it ultimately reaches God. And only when an individual
begins to love God wholly does he become a whole person.
When I love God, I can't love Him in the abstract — you can't love God in
the abstract, you can't love God in a vacuum - - - you can't separate God from
people — God has put His likeness in you . . . .in you . . . .in you in me. When
we love God we love wherever His likeness is to be found. My high regard for the
Quakers remains because they more than any people I know keep saying, "Look for
that which is of God in every person, and respond to every person as that person
is an object of God's love. You look at me that way, won't you? — as a child of
God, someone whom God loves. And that means you should love me that way too.
Love's what makes the world go round, it's the breath of life. I wish you
could see this — you can't possibly, of course, it's a reproduction of a photo-
graph. I want to tell you a little bit about it before the sermon is concluded.
Sometimes a dramatic picture can bring a sad picture into such sharp focus that
it suddenly becomes colorful enough to grip our attention like a sunrise. The
photograph on this page, that you can't see, is that kind of a picture. Three
years ago in Jacksonville, Florida, an apprentice linesman, Randall Champion, ac-
cidently touched a live wire, and 2400 volts surged through his body. The shock
left him hanging from the safety belt, unconscious, and rapidly turning blue from
lack of breath. A fellow apprentice, Jimmy Thompson, heard his cry from a nearby
pole. He rushed to his aid, lowered his body into the right position, and admini-
stered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Thompson's alertness and daring saved
I ( " LOVE POWER" -6
Champion's life. A photographer came by at the right moment and got the whole
sequence of events, which told the story dramatically. The dramatic picture high-
lights an undramatic truth: no person stays alive in this world unless he is
sustained by somebody else's love. Love is the breath of life.
I place it almost on the same plane as Scripture, if you will be kind enough
to let me do that. It's something that I read that I hope I'll never forget —
that you and I, our personalities, our temperaments, our characters, are fashioned
and shaped by people who love us or who may refuse to love us. Now you think
about that for a while.
(This sermon transcribed
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Third Sunday in Advent December 16, 198A
" HOW TO LIVE MEANINGFULLY IN THE MEANWHILE"
GRACE, Mercy and Peace from God
our Father and from His Son Jesus
Christ, our Blessed Lord. Amen.
If it's a title you'd be wanting for this sermon, perhaps you'd settle for this
one: " How To Live Meaningfully in the Meanwhile. " Now you'll have to listen as the
sermon progresses as to why those words should have been so carefully chosen.
Some of you are fully aware of the fact that each Sunday during the Advent-tide
now as I've come to the sacred desk, I've invited your attention to the same text.
Very early on it gripped my soul and I can't possibly ignore it as week by week we
draw closer to Christmas. The text is the 13th verse of the first chapter of the let-
ter that that tent-maker who went around from place to place doing his trade, but he
had an obsession, that no matter where he went, no matter whose people's lives he
touched, he had to do it from a God-perspective. He could never forget the people in
Rome, so he wrote this letter to Rome . . . and the 13th chapter, the 11th and 12th
verses read in this manner:
" The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Let us
therefore cast off the works of darkness and let us
put on the armor of light."
Now that's all that he said, but that is enough for the moment.
Gilbert K. Chesterton has always been recognized as the wit that he was. He's
supposed to have referred to an acquaintance of his by saying,
"He seemed always to be coming from some place, but going nowhere."
That description, no matter how apt for Chesterton's friend, is not a proper one for
Christians. For Christians, of all people, are people who know where they have been,
and are people who should know where they're heading. We are a people who are launched
by the past, being propelled toward a future. This fact is evidenced, of course, that
we are the people who have a Book with two parts to it — there's an old part and there's
a new part. There's an Old Testament and there's a New Testament. In the old part we're
always talking about what's already happened. In the new part we spend a great deal of
our time and energy reading page after page with nothing less than a future look
thinking in terms of that which is yet to come.
Now some of you are fully aware of this, that I have a very strong feeling about
this particular season of the year. Advent means more to me than I can possibly express
" HOW TO LIVE MEANINGFULLY IN THE MEANWHILE " (2)
in words. And I want so much for this particular aspect to have meaning for all of
us. I do not come to it lightly this year. While I have an appreciation for all the
seasons of the church year, I keep company with George Santayani, who said, "It's far
better to develop an interest in the changing seasons than to fall hopelessly in love
My appreciation for Advent does not diminish in any way my recognition of the other
seasons of the year — please do not sell me short in that regard. But I presume when
I think in terms of Advent, I begin to take very seriously the prospect of Christmas.
And when I think of Christmas I become more nostalgic at this time of the year than at
any other time in my life. Christmas Present always reminds me of Christmases past.
And as one who has always been a student of history, I can't possibly ignore what has
been. And every time a brand new Christmas comes around I find myself looking back to
the Christmases that have been - - and invariably I associate those Christmases with
certain people who have been a force for good in my life.
Some years back I made it a point to send personal messages to a limited number of
people, and I still see how I wrote, poorly as I write, on each of those cards:
"Because of you I can more easily believe
that God is at work in this world today."
A number of those people are no longer here — they have come, they have gone. They be-
long to Christmases past. I look back and I remember when Advent comes, as I think of
I've never been reluctant to be transparent to you when I stand among you. My life
among you for twenty-eight years has been a open book. It's not easy for me to close
chapters it's not easy for me to walk away and say it's over. But life can be like
that. And fortunate indeed is that person who comes to admit to himself that he lives
his life in chapters . . . and when one chapter is over, what do you do? By the grace
of God you go on to write the next chapter! That's what Advent's all about. Advent
says, "Look back and remember — He came! Look back and remember what God has already
done!" . . . and those chapters are over.
I have a high regard for my Jewish friends. I don't know of any particular group
of people who prize the past more than they do. They're always reminding themselves
that 'We are the Children of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob' the patriarchs who once
were! And on the night of Passover, the head of the household who conducts the ritual
raises the question: Vlhat is the meaning of this night ? Why is this night different
from any other night? and then he expects one of his own children to speak up.
"HOW TO LIVE MEANINGFULLY IN THE MEANTrTHILE" (3)
because he's rooted and grounded them in history . . . and it's at that moment that one
of his children will recite what he has taught them: about the past, about the God who
had been active in their past. Advent forces me to wax nostalgic, Advent forces me to
look back — to all that was prophecised and to all that did take place by those who
lived then and there . . . and all who have been a part of my Christmases past.
But it's never enough for a Christian just to look to the past. You can't do that.
Life doesn't stop. When they asked Robert Frost, 'HvTiat has life taught you?" the
wise old man said, "I can tell it to you simply: life goes on!" There is the past, but
there is also the future. And that's what Advent also means. We are a people who have
a past ~ for which v/e're grateful. We are a people of a future , which makes us hopeful.
I have no problem with that. But it does take a bit of doing, I'll admit, to get me to
deal adequately with the present moment. That past is over; the present has not yet
come. But today is at hand! How to deal with it meaningfully? How to discharge one's
obligation in a responsible way — today ? "The night is far spent, the day is at hand."
Unless life has treated me ill, I look forward to each morning, and I'm a morning
person . . . and I like sometimes to get up before the break of the day. It's a salutary
thing to see the darkness dispelled and to see a new day dawn. And by the same token,
when I can do it — which isn't very often -- I hie away to some place where I can sit
quietly when the darkness settles in. Sometimes I cherish the moment when I can steal
home and go upstairs in the bedroom and sit in the rocking chair and look out the window
and see the v7orld get darker and darker and darker, and the shades of light disappear,
and have deep thoughts: it's over. The day has come it's gone!
. . . but I can never allow myself to go to bed at night and say,
that's it! The Christian says, "The night is far spent" — that's
right — but, "the day is at hand."
I've checked this translation out for you in a number of different Bibles, at least
seven different translations. It's an interesting perspective that you get when you
read it in the way different translators have dealt with it. After I've done all of
that I've come up with my own free, reckless, daring translation. In today's modern
jargon it might read like this — let me try it on you for size. Let's go back to the
King James: " The night is far spent, the day/ is at hand. L et us therefore
cast off the works of darkness and let us put on the armor of
light . . . "
My reckless modern jargon would have me say:
"What's over is over! The past has run its course. Yesterday
has come and today has come, and it's almost gone. But tomor-
row? It's upon us! The future is at hand! — it's inevitable.
So in the meantime , let's settle in, and act responsibly, with
integrity, to do what we're meant to do, to be what we're meant
"HOW TO LIVE MEANINGFULLY IN THE MEAN^ffllLE" (4)
Oh, I give that to you on good authority, you see, that's what the Apostle Paul
said after that text I read for you. He goes on to say then,
" In the face of a world that's going to come to an end ,
what kind of people ought we to be? "
and he had only one conclusion: God's kind of people , and to act responsibly in the
present moment. How to live meaningfully meanwhile — between the past and the future?
Now the lesson of this text freely, boldly, recklessly translated in this way... I '11
have to admit I have not easily mastered, nor I dare say you may easily master, because
many of us just don't know how to live, then, in the present moment. We may say to our-
selves, the past is over; we may say to ourselves, the future has not yet come - - but
here we are , with what's in front of us. And we have extreme difficulty in handling the
We could find ourselves somewhat in the situation in which Col. John Glenn found
himself. You remember, the first to soar to outer space. You remember his "Friendship
Seven." As you might expect, they have films accompanied by narration of his flight
aboard Friendship Seven, perhaps you have heard the voice that speaks in this manner,
"Col. Glenn is now on his journey toward the night of tomorrow and the dawn of yester-
day." The narrator, of course, is making reference to Glenn's passage through three
days of sunrise and sunset in four hours of earth time. So it could be that way for us,
we're launched backxjard and yet we move forward. Is the past we're trying to get caught
up with, or concentration that we make upon the future, so that all the time the present
moment, vjhich is upon us, may not be unrecognized but could be seen for what it is, and
the challenge that it brings.
Let me say it again, it's good to look back to the past. I'm a student of history,
and I'm so profoundly grateful that I try to see things through the historical perspec-
tive. But you can't imprison yourself in the past, and you can't be a dreamer and think
only of that which is yet to come as reality without any substance. How do we phrase
that then? We used to say, "He who came will come again" — that's right! The past,
and the future. But let me give you a better way of thinking of that then put it
in the present tense. Advent means coming. Instead of saying, "He who came will come"
~ say, "He who came will come ~ and comes!" The future is being written now. Tomorrow
is being shaped by today, even as yesterday leaves its stamp upon the present moment. So
therefore \ie are meant to live meaningfully in the meanwhile.
I know that there are some people who look back and think the better days have come
and gone, that they were the "good old days." And they're not so sure about the future.
" HOW TO LIVE MEANINGFULLY IN THE MEANWHILE" (5)
And let me tell you this: we are always in God's hand, whether we're the children of the
past, or the children of the future. We're always in God's hand, whether with our be-
lief or our unbelief. The victory of life is to be found in acting responsibly in the
I usually read Coleman McCarthy as his articles appear in the local newspaper. I've
had correspondence with him, he's a devout Roman Catholic, spiritually sensitive, and
socially sensitive to the issues of our day. It may be of some source of information to
you that some of the devotional material that we've used in Saint Luke Church he's used
when he puts his children to bed at night. One of the articles that he wrote several
years ago had to deal with that grand old man of Judaism. Perhaps I shouldn't say so
old, he died only when he was at 68 years of age — Rabbi Abraham Pescal, a marvelous
spirit, respected by all people, whatever their race or religion. McCarthy tells what
Pescal used to tell as a matter of legend:
Once upon a time, somewhere on the face of the earth, there was a tiny
kingdom. And when the people in that tiny kingdom harvested their crops,
brought the grain and they put it in their storehouse, one day they dis-
covered when they went to use it, that practically all of it was poisoned.
And experience had proven that those who had eaten it, the poison grain,
had become insane. Now what were they to do? You couldn't possibly go on
living unless you ate something. In order to live, no matter how it may
end up, you still had to eat in order to live. There were those who just
didn't want to die, so they'd eat anything in order to live. In order to
life they had to eat something.
So, well the king in the kingdom issued a decree. Of the poisoned
grain, those who felt they had to eat of it — go ahead! Let them eat.
But, said the king, in this kingdom there must be a select number of people,
carefully chosen, who must scrounge around and find a source of food, limited
as it might be, that could be eaten with safety - - - limited as that supply
might be. The decree was that they were not to eat of the poisoned grain.
They were to find somewhere on the face of this earth some food that could
be consumed safely. For, said the king, there must be left in my kingdom, if
only a handful, a group of people to remind the rest of us that we're insane....
Which is simply to suggest to you this morning, my friend, in a world that's being
branded mad, that doesn't know how to live today , that doesn't know how to endure the
demands and the challenge of the present moment, let there be found Christians such as
you, who watch your diet, who eat the right and proper spiiritual food - - so that in
the present moment I cannot say it better — you can be what you're meant to be,
you can do what you're meant to do, by the grace of God. This I do believe.
Sermon - Pastor Raymond Shaheen
The Fourth Sunday in Advent December 23, 1984
" PUT ON THE LORD JESUS"
QUIET our minds and hush our hearts,
God, and make us still. Perchance
we may hear some echo of the Eternal
Voice that comes down through the
corridor of time, even now and in
this place. Amen.
Each of these Sundays during Advent I have been asking you to consider the same
text that's gripped my soul repeatedly. It happens to have been written by a tent-
mender whose soul was on fire with Jesus Christ, so that no matter where he went, he
tried to look at the world through the eyes of God.
He kept in touch with congregations that he established, congregations that meant
a great deal to him . . .
— if they had a crisis, he'd address that crisis....
— if they needed encouragement , he ' d give them encouragement ....
— if they had to have their consciences pricked, he could do that....
— if he had to take people to task, he didn't hesitate — .
— if it was a place he'd like to visit, he'd write them a letter
and tell them he hoped some day to come there....
This text that's gripped my mind, as you know if you have been here each of the Sundays
before, is in the 13th chapter of the letter that he wrote to Christians who lived in
He was very much aware of the fact that the world was not as it ought to be, that
darkness had settled in. I suppose you could say that it looked to him as though the
world was going to hell, and hurriedly so. He was not an optimist in this regard as he
looked at the world horizontally. In fact, that first verse of the three in that 13th
chapter of Romans begins, "The night is far spent." It's the kind of thing that Walter
captured for us as he began that first stanza of this very fine piece of music — a
world with dismal, grievous weights ... no matter where Paul looked, it was dismal.
But being the kind of person that he was, he honestly believed that he would not have
to live in a world as most of the people live in the world that since his life was
touched by Jesus Christ, it was possible for him to be as Jesus Christ.
No matter how much people may be demonically possessed, no matter how many people
might serve the devil, as far as the Apostle Paul was concerned. Christians had no
choice — they were to respond to anything and everything around them according to the
mind and spirit of Jesus Christ. And for some of us who each day find that that's the
requirement that God puts in front of us, I for one can tell you it takes a bit of doing
....it takes a bit of doing to reflect the mind and spirit of Jesus Christ.
"PUT ON THE LORD JESUS" (2)
Every now and then we're surrounded by people who bring out the worst in us. And
even when that occurs, if we're to be worthy of the name of Christian, we have to res-
pond with nothing less than the mind and spirit of Jesus Christ. Now let me read all
three of these verses for you — it's the last verse that has claimed my soul today in
a way that the preceding verses have not done so:
" The night is far spent, but the day is at hand. Let
us therefore cast off the works of darkness and let
us put on the armor of light ... "
Now that's — a free translation would be:
— we don't have to be done in, and
— we don't have to treat people the way they treat us, and
— we don't have to be as people without hope....
— we don't have to be as the children of evil
— we can be strengthened by light, the light of love
and the light of truth
" Let us therefore walk honestly, as in the day, not in rioting,
not in drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in
strife and envy, but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and
make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lust thereof. "
Now what Paul is really saying to us, as I understand it, is this: you can be in a
world that doesn't encourage you to be — you can be as Jesus Christ. But if that's to
happen, it has to be done deliberately, and earnestly. You just don't treat people
I have no right to stand in front of you if I can't make this sermon relevant,
and from time to time I try to share with you some very simple homespun illustrations.
Let me be as simple as I can possibly be: " Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ" figura-
tively speaking, as though Jesus Christ were a garment, an item of clothing. My waking
thoughts were of this text this morning (that shouldn't surprise you). . . , I've tried
to root and ground myself in this passage of Scripture for weeks. And as I was dressing
this morning — "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ" — it occurred to me, every single
item of clothing that I put on, I had to reach for deliberately I had to go to where
it was, and then very earnestly I had to put it on. Nobody dressed me this morning. I
dressed myself. Deliberately, earnestly, I did that. I chose what I was going to wear,
I made a decision. I didn't have to wear these vestments this morning, but I am in a
position to tell you that each Lord's Day when I wear a particular set of vestments, I
choose them. The choice may be the same Sunday after Sunday, but deliberately and ear-
nestly I choose.
" PUT ON THE LORD JESUS" (3)
My brothers in the Roman Catholic Church, you may not be aware of this — they have
a prayer that they offer each time they put on their vestments. I have had the good
fortune to officiate in some Roman Catholic churches and I've seen the prayer that they
pray . . . they even recite Scripture as they wash their hands before they touch their
— I reach for this cassock, the long flowing purple garment...
— I reach for this white surplice. . .
— I reach for this stole. . . .
I helped a minister yesterday conduct a funeral service. When he put the stole on, he
kissed it as a sign of respect and affection, because this stole for which he reached
earnestly symbolizes the yoke of Christ! VJhoever stands at the sacred desk this morning
as I am standing before you, even as I'm standing now at this particular moment, I am
yoked to Christ, I am Christ's servant - - I am in duty bound to speak to you according
to the mind and spirit of Jesus Christ. That's why you must pray for me constantly,
that I may not fail my Lord, that I may not fail you. It's an awesome thing.
What have I told you in this very simple way? When you put on something, you take
it, and it becomes part of your identification. Some of us have wrestled with the very
casual way we give ourselves in the clothing that we wear. Some of us are of the old
school, that we have a way of behaving according to the clothing that we wear. Don't
make too much of that, but make as much of it as you ought
"Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ - - "
...Take Him to yourself, and let that become part of your identification.
I hope to the day you die that you can't possibly think of my identification aside
from what I am wearing as I stand before you now. I am awed by that thought. And it's
an exceedingly precious moment in the life of the person who prepares for the Gospel
ministry when at the time of his ordination, or her ordination, that the person receives
for the first time the stole — yoked to Christ, to be identified with Christ.
Now having told you all of that, be very patient with me because I am going to be
very personal now. I don't know how well some of you know my Winifred, my partner in
the work of the Lord for more than four decades: modest, demure, salt of the earth.
When she and I read the Christmas greetings that come to us now, some of them come from
people that we have known for more than forty years. And as we read some of those greet-
ings - - as I told you last Sunday, it's at this season of the year when we wax nostal-
gic - - now listen, listen very earnestly, will you, please? Some of those greetings
come to us from people that we identified with the Baltic states. For shame upon you
if you've forgotten their miserable plight Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia. We had peo-
ple from all three of those Baltic States living with us at one time, when we lived in
"PUT ON THE LORD JESUS" (4)
another parsonage. Winifred had gone with me in 1949 to Europe and had seen some of
the devastation. Then shortly thereafter — well, let me recite it for you:
— first there was Ernestine Krastin , a Latvian, I suppose she was
about 60 years of age, who was literally deposited on our doorstep.
The people who had sponsored her as a refugee or as a misplaced per-
son, didn't quite know what to do with her. So they left her with us....
Ernestine came to us out of a world of hatred and hostility, out of a
Europe whose cities were sacked and destroyed, whose people were killed
and murdered and raped. Out of that world Ernestine came to us....
My Winifred, what did she do? - - she put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and treated
Ernestine the way Jesus Christ would treat her, and took her into our home.
— There was Alexander Kurilenko , Russian-born, who had lived in
Estonia. Now you'd better get this one: someone once came in where
he was and said, "Now!" — one word. He got up and left, never
again to see the people with whom he was associated, not being able
to go home and pick up anything that was precious to him. He was a
marked man by the Communists. He fled for his life. From that very
moment, when the word was spoken: "Now!" — he came and lived with us.
Out of that kind of a world!
I'Jhat did my Winifred do? - - she put on the Lord Jesus Christ and took him, and his
wife, and his mother-in-law to stay with us.
— Jonas Eduardus Gervitis Semitis — a teenage Lithuanian, whose father
was put to death in a concentration camp - - he came to us, out of that
kind of a world! — no gra3mess, but of darkness.
l\fhat did my Winifred do? - - she put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and she took him in.
— One of the Christmas greetings we'll get tomorrow, like as not,
from Dobbs Ferry, New York — Hilmar Leytma — also Estonian, a dis-
tinguished cardiologist, ... .he came to us as a teenager, a displaced
What did my Winifred do? - - she put on the Lord Jesus Christ and identified and treated
him the way Jesus Christ would treat him.
I came home from the hospital one day and I said,
"Winifred, she's dying — she won't last the day — and what do
you suppose she said to me? 'Pastor, take care of my boys.'
She had two of them, not yet teenagers.
What did my Winifred do? - - she put on the Lord Jesus Christ, identified as Christ,
"PUT ON THE LORD JESUS" (5)
and she took them in. One of them is a pastor in New York City, and the other a YMCA
Not all of them would have turned out well. That's beside the point. The point
is this: you talk about the Eve of Advent, you talk about Jesus Christ coming? I
don't care how many carols you sing, I don't care how many greetings you send, I don't
care how many presents you buy . . . and for the moment I don't much care how often you
come to church. But with all the strength that my soul can command I can say this to
you, if you do not take on the Lord Jesus Christ — deliberately and earnestly — and
identify with Him, and have Him identify with you. Said Martin Luther, if you want to
know that the birth of Christ is effective in you, then see how much you take to your
heart the need of your brother.
Put on the Lord Jesus — identify with Him. If you don't, then as far as you are
concerned and I am concerned. He hasn't really come! Now you think about that for a
* * * *
(transcribed as recorded)
Sermon - Pastor Rajnnond Shaheen
The First Sunday After Christmas December 30, 1984
" THE OTHER PART OF THE CHRISTMAS STORY"
GOD, we do so little of this sort
of thing, give some measure of un-
divided attention to the interpre-
tation of Your truth. That we
should make the most of it now, en-
lighten us by Your Holy Spirit,
through Jesus Christ Thy Son, our
Lord, who when He came, came preach-
ing . Amen .
There are two parts to the Christmas story. You may not have realized that. Most
of us concentrate on one part and one part only. If it's a title for this sermon that
you will be needing, let me suggest " The Other Part of The Christmas Story." Essential-
ly, it's the sermon that I didn't have nerve to preach on the night that marked the Holy
Nativity. For when you came, you see, you were thinking in terms of this verse of Scrip-
ture, recorded in the second chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew as the 11th verse:
" And when they were come into the house,
they saw the young child, with Mary his
mother, and fell down and worshiped him.
And when they had opened their treasures,
they presented unto him gifts, gold, and
frankincense and myrrh."
Wonderful, you say. That's exactly the way it should have been....
— God saw fit to come to earth — uniquely
— God saw fit to come as love, perfect and complete love
— God saw fit to come Himself — personally.
That's the meaning of Christmas.
That itinerant tent-mender, when he wrote about it, was so overcome that he gave
the perfect expression regarding it when he said — thinking of Jesus Christ:
" In him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell"
This is the last word, there's nothing better — you have it now and it's in front of
you. That's part of the Christmas story — the essential part of the Christmas story.
And equally pleasing, of course, is that there were those who were able to respond
as they ought to respond....
— there were shepherds who, when they got the word of it,
said, "Well, we'll go see — we'll respond!"
— Mary and Joseph, when they were informed, they responded —
favorably. . . .
— wise men, who traveled a great distance, kept following the Star,
"THE OTHER PART OF THE CHRISTMAS STORY" (2)
they never gave up. They responded — exceptionally well!
That's marvelous. That's the Christmas story: God comes — people responding — happy..
...glad - - but that's only part of the story.
When you came on Christmas Eve, you came exactly in the way that John Milton the
poet had romanticized it. I am not selling him short, we need poets. And we need to
look at things through the eyes of the poet. He wrote these lines in his hymn on the
morning of Christ's nativity a way of thinking of the Holy Night:
"....No war, or battle's sound.
Was heard the world around;
The idle spear and shield were high uphung;
The hooked chariot stood
Unstained with hostile blood;
The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;
And kings sat still with awful eye.
As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by.
But peaceful was the night
Wherein the Prince of Light
His reign of peace upon the earth began ..."
Now that's precisely the way you and I wanted to feel on the night that marked the Holy
Nativity "Silent night, Holy night ... all is peaceful, all is calm . . " But it
wasn't. For any number of people, for most of the people that night was just like any
other night. Men loved men labored men lusted men bought, men sold men gam-
bled — they won, they lost just like any other night. The fact is, aside from how
we see it, there was no special quietness that night for everyone. The world went on
its noisy way as usual, quite unconscious and careless of what was happening in Bethle-
Was Herod really sitting still that night? — overcome with awe? Not a bit of it!
He was following his usual habits and pastimes, with little regard whatsoever for the
wonderful thing that was coming to pass except to be troubled, and trying to figure out
how he could have done with it.
The first part of the Christmas story is caught up sublimely in this text. Let me
read it for you again. It's important that you get this sequence:
"And when they were come into the house, they saw the
young child with Mary his mother and fell down and
worshiped him. And when they opened their treasures
they presented him gifts, gold, and frankincense and
myrrh." - -
Wonderful! That's exactly the way it should have been and for a limited number of
people it was that way! But there's a verse of Scripture that follows very quickly.
There is such a thing as the 12th verse of the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.
And it reads in this manner:
"THE OTHER PART OF THE CHRISTMAS STORY" (3)
"... And being warned of God in a dream that they
should not return to Herod, they departed Into their
own country another way ..."
That's the other chapter, that's the other part of the Christinas story — evil was rais-
ing its ugly head. In the world in which Jesus Christ comes there also lives a wicked
Essentially, it meant a change in travel plans for these people who had come seek-
ing the Savior. Now for the moment, let's digress, but not too instantly. Anyone who
has done any amount of traveling knows what it is to be told you'll have to change your
plans. When Maril3m Ammon would book some of us for a trip, she would come with all the
pleasantness that becomes Marilyn and say, "I've had you ticketed now. I'm quite sure
this is scheduled the way it ought to be. I've tried to anticipate what could happen —
here are your tickets. You ought to get all the way through safely, and back."
...but she's had enough experience to know that she has to permit herself a margin
for something that might not be as perfect as that. And we discovered it, you see. On
any number of trips we've taken we've had to be re-scheduled, or there's been a delay —
or we have been re-routed. It costs time, it costs money, we become frustrated. But it
may be absolutely essential if we are to arrive at the point where we're meant to arrive.
Now, to all intents and purposes this verse of Scripture: God warning these people,
"You have got to go back a different way, there's a change in
travel plans." - - - dare I speak recklessly - - - even God
on occasion has to change His plans. Even God on occasion has
to tell you,
"I've come up with something else for you that you
have to consider. You may not have counted on it,
but I'm in duty bound to tell you that this is what
is going to happen at this moment ..."
...a change in plans.
Now I'm not overly concerned about the fact that there was a change in plans. You
can't read that verse of Scripture other than that. They went back to their country a^
different way . Specifically — a change in travel plans. But that isn't what concerns
me primarily. It's the fact that what it was that caused those plans to be changed.
What caused those plans to be changed was the fact that evil is in this world. The same
world in which we find Jesus Christ is a world in which we find the wicked King Herod —
who gave the orders that every male child under two years of age should be slaughtered!
Can you think of anything as diabolical as that? Now that's the other side of the
' THE OTHER PART OF THE CHRISTMAS STORY " (4)
I don't know when it was that I first began to wrestle with the fact of evil.
There was a time in my life when I never much thought about it. Really I didn't. As
any number of you people who have come to know me across the years, I try always to
concentrate on looking for that which is good, I try not to sensitize myself to the fact
of evil. And on occasion I regret very much that that happens to be part of my make-up,
because I have been caught by surprise, and I haven't been made equal to the situation
at hand because I was either ignoring the fact of evil, or was insensitive to its exis-
You know how highly I've regarded my parents. So frequently I've referred to my
parents. To the day I die I'll have nothing less than gratitude in my heart for what
they gave me. My mother had a winsome personality, she was always loving people, she
was always doing good to people, she was always being kind to people. My father was a
very good man, and a very honest man. You'll permit me to tell you this, please - -
there was a college president who wrote me once and said, "I've just talked with a man
who knew your father, and he said of your father, he was the most honest man he ever
met." That makes me want to stand taller. That makes me want to be better than I am.
But I'm telling you this because there's one thing — good and honest and wonderful as
they were - - - that I wish they would have done for me, that for some reason not known
to me they sent me out into the world quite unprepared for the fact that I'd have to
encounter evil. They didn't take time to brace me, and to prepare me, that eventually
I would encounter Satan - - or I'd have to deal with Satanic influences. It's only been
in the latter part of my life that I've become increasingly conscious of the fact of
evil. It's only been in recent years that I've admitted to myself that to ignore evil,
one does so at great risk and peril. It needs to be called by its rightful name, it
needs to be seen for what it is.
Theodore Parker Ferris was for a number of years the distinguished preacher of Holy
Trinity Church in Boston. Somewhere I jotted down what he said on this very same line:
"This is the Christian insight, that there is a devil somewhere in
the picture. He is often called Satan. It really doesn't make
very much difference what we call him, or how we picture him —
with or without horn, hooves or fork. The point is that there
seems to be in the world an evil streak that is over and above
anything that man is responsible for. There seem to be powers
of evil that get men in their grip and will not let them go.
Jesus talked and acted as though He believed this. He himself
" THE OTHER PART OF THE CHRISTMAS STORY" (5)
wrestled with Satan, in the wilderness, in the beginning
of His ministry. And He often spoke about the kingdom
over which Satan ruled ..."
It's been a source of great comfort to me to go back and remember, as I read the Scrip-
ture, that evil is dealt with, evil is recognized, evil is called by its rightful name.
It's been a source of comfort for me to discover that when Jesus Christ talked about
evil He didn't spend a great amount of His time trying to explain it as to its origin...
...He accepted the fact that it existed, and that it could not be ignored.
In this verse of Scripture that constitutes the basis for this sermon this morning,
God recognizes evil times. There is a wicked King Herod! He's very, very much alive.
He's possessed by the devil. That's the first thing that God does. He says, There is
such a thing as evil, I do not ignore it, I do not pretend that it's not there.
The second thing He suggests, if I read the mind of God aright, as best I try to
understand the mind of God within human limitation - - He's giving us to understand that
we on our own cannot defeat evil. Now that's not very comforting news. I myself, on my
own , cannot defeat or eradicate evil. It's pernicious! It's insidious! It exists!
And it goes to the very depth of a person's soul.
So what does God do? He says to His friends, "You'll have to circumvent it, you'll
have to work around it - - you'll have to outwit it!" And that's precisely what happen-
ed: they outwitted Herod. They went back to their own country by a different route.
Now, I'm encouraging you, my friend, my brother and my sister in Christ, to recog-
nize the fact that while Christianity is essentially an optimistic religion, it is pes-
simistic to this extent - - that it sees that men can be devils if they choose to be.
Unless you see that, you will not see, because you will not need, the tremendous release
that comes through Jesus Christ. I don't want you to be morbidly obsessed by the fact
of the devil. I am in duty bound to warn you to be alert to the fact that he exists.
But as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I am in a position to tell you that God
is always greater . . . and under the influence of the Holy Spirit we can stand up to
the evil. And thanks be to God, and to the victory that has come through His Son who
came into the world to save us from our sins - - evil, powerful as it is, remains only
the second most powerful force. And that's a happy/ thought .
* * *
(Transcribed as recorded)